RAF serviceman jailed for punching man, 72, like ‘boxing ball at a funfair’

RAF serviceman James Sinclair, who has been jailed for 15 months for assaulting a 72-year-old man an

RAF serviceman James Sinclair, who has been jailed for 15 months for assaulting a 72-year-old man and his son in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

The career of a Suffolk-based RAF serviceman, who punched a 72-year-old man’s head like a “boxing ball at a funfair” during an unprovoked attack in Bury St Edmunds, is in ruins after he was jailed for 15 months.

Sentencing James Sinclair, Judge Emma Peters said the attack had a "catastrophic and life-changing" effect on his victim and she had no option but to jail him, despite knowing a prison sentence would end his career.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Sinclair had knocked Thomas Cleary unconscious with a single punch, causing a fractured skull and a serious bleed on the brain which had left him with ongoing problems.

Following the attack, Mr Cleary's family was initially told he might die and his son had subsequently been forced to give up his job to care for his father.

Sinclair, 24, who was based at RAF Honington, was convicted by a jury of causing Mr Cleary grievous bodily harm after a trial in December and sentence was adjourned until Thursday.

Sinclair was cleared of another charge of assaulting Mr Cleary's son, Patrick.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr Cleary and his son had been drinking in Bury St Edmunds on the night of the attack in November 2018.

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They had visited the Kings Arms, The Grapes and The Gym bar, in Risbygate Street, before going to get some chips.

As they walked through the St Andrew's Street car park towards Tayfen Road, Sinclair asked them for a lighter.

When Thomas Cleary replied that he did not smoke, Sinclair swore at the men.

Patrick Cleary had sworn back and claimed he was then hit twice by Sinclair.

After flagging down a taxi and asking the driver to call the police, Patrick Cleary claimed that Sinclair, of 27 Squadron, crossed back over the road to where his father was still standing and punched him in the face.

"It was like he was punching one of those boxing balls you see at the funfair," he said.

Sinclair claimed he acted in self-defence.

Catherine Bradshaw, for Sinclair, said her client had expressed remorse for his behaviour and regretted the extent of Mr Cleary's injury.

"He didn't go out to cause anyone any injury," said Miss Bradshaw.

She said Sinclair would be discharged from the RAF if he received an immediate or suspended prison sentence.

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