Ear biter’s indefinite prison term quashed
A SUFFOLK tree surgeon with a disturbing criminal history of biting has had his open-ended jail term quashed – despite a recent attack in which he chewed off the top off his victim’s ear.
Benjamin Boyce, 35, savaged the ear of pub-goer Lee Potter after felling him outside the Greyhound pub, in Diss, in April last year, biting off the top of his left ear before he was held back by onlookers.
The missing segment of ear was recovered and put on ice, but could not be surgically re-attached, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart told London’s Appeal Court.
The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Leveson and Mr Justice Treacy, said Mr Potter is now “nervous about going out” due to his ordeal, and cannot wear hats or glasses because of the damage to his ear.
His two young sons were initially scared of his changed appearance and the judge added: “Having seen pictures of his ear, taken shortly after the incident, we can understand the concern of Mr Potter’s children.”
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He also suffered multiple bruises and abrasions due to brutal punches and kicks meted out by Boyce.
Boyce, of Lambseth Street, Eye, was jailed indefinitely for public protection (IPP) at Norwich Crown Court last October after admitting wounding with intent.
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The IPP sentence, reserved for dangerous offenders, is almost identical to a life term and meant Boyce would not be freed until he could convince the authorities the danger he posed to the public had passed.
Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart said the Crown Court judge had taken account of Boyce’s disturbing past record – including two court appearances for ear-biting in 1999 and 2001.
But he had kept out of trouble in the meantime, building up a solid business as a tree surgeon and winning the esteem of neighbours in his area.
“He has his good side and his bad side,” the judge explained.
His third and most recent ear-biting outrage occurred after midnight outside the Greyhound as Mr Potter waited with friends for a taxi. Mr Potter said he was the victim of a wholly unprovoked attack from Boyce, although he accepted swinging a punch in self-defence.
Boyce accepted flying into a rage and biting Mr Potter, but insisted that he was punched first by the other man.
He recently penned a letter to the Appeal Court in which he “appeared to accept that what he did by way of retaliation was grossly excessive”, said the judge.
“We regard biting off the top of a person’s ear as a clear aggravating factor which would outweigh any claimed provocation,” he added.
“He has now bitten people during assaults on three separate occasions, and that is probably enough on its own to justify a finding of dangerousness.”
But, allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart said the IPP sentence was tantamount to a life term and was “wrong in principle” in the circumstances of the case.
Boyce was instead handed a conventional four-year jail term, along with two years on “extended” licence, during which he can be recalled to prison if he puts a foot wrong.