Soldier in coma for a month after one-punch attack left him with severe brain injury

A soldier was in a coma for a month after a one-punch attack left him with a severe brain injury.

Mackenzie Ashton, 22, was punched to the side of the head by Jacob Ryan, 23, at The Establishment nightclub in Widnes town centre on December 22, 2018.

Mr Ashton’s head hit the “hard floor” and he lost consciousness immediately after being struck, a trial heard.

He sustained a fracture to the skull and a bleed to the brain, the court was told.

Mr Ashton remains in the army but is no longer in a frontline role due to the severe effects of the brain injury, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Ryan was convicted of inflicting grievous bodily harm (GBH) at a trial in Chester Town Hall Nightingale Court, having denied the assault.

The case was passed to Liverpool Crown Court for sentence, which heard trouble began when a friend of Ryan’s claimed he had been “punched for no reason” by the victim – a claim which proved to be completely untrue.

Judge David Potter said when Mr Ashton walked across the dance floor, he was confronted by Ryan and two friends, despite CCTV showing Mr Ashton did not “do anything hostile to the three of you”.

One friend swung an uppercut at Mr Ashton and missed.

Ryan, formerly of Widnes but more recently living and working in Sweden, then punched Mr Ashton to the side of the head.

Judge Potter, appearing by videolink from Preston Crown Court, said: “He wasn’t expecting that hit and he fell straight to the floor.

“The right side of his head collided with the hard floor.

“He sustained a fracture to the skull and a bleed to the brain.

“I’m satisfied he was rendered immediately unconscious.”

He said Ryan fled the scene, “leaving a man knocked out on the floor”.

On Thursday he was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Michael Whitty, prosecuting, said Mr Ashton suffered a “severe brain injury, primarily to his front right lobe as a result of the fractures to his temples and a bleed on his brain.”

He added Mr Ashton has no recollection of the incident and was in a coma for four weeks.

The infantryman was treated at hospitals including Broadgreen and a military rehabilitation unit.

In a victim personal statement he described the consequences of the assault as “severe” and “ongoing”.

Mr Whitty said; “Despite the passage of nearly two years, he’s not back to where he was prior to this incident.”

Anthony O’Donohoe, defending, said there wasn’t any premeditation involved in the “quick incident”.

He said he “readily” conceded the case crossed the custody threshold but appealed for the sentence to be suspended.

Mr O’Donohoe said Ryan was of previous good character and was an electronic engineer on good money for someone his age, and was well regarded.

He said: “This is a young man who’s spoken very highly of in the references on his behalf and in the pre-sentence report.

“He comes from a loving and respectable family.”

Mr O’Donohoe added: “He has an awareness of the wrong he has done and deeply regrets that, and he has a great deal of empathy and sympathy over his actions towards the victim in this matter.”

Judge Potter said he accepted the punch was “wholly out of character”.

However he said: “The consequences for Mr Ashton of this one punch were profound and are life-changing.

“At the time Mr Ashton was a man in the armed forces.

“He was taken to the Walton neurological centre and placed in an induced coma for many weeks.”

He added: “He spent many weeks in hospital and many months in rehabilitation.”

Following the incident, Mr Ashton’s mother Donna Ashton posted a powerful message on Facebook describing praying for her son, “my soldier my son my life still fighting for his life”.