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Suspended sentence for hammer attacker

Garth Bell’s lawyer, Susan Mulligan

A man who attacked his stepfather with a mason’s hammer has been allowed to walk free from court.

Garth Bell lashed out at Herbie Spencer in the garden of his mother’s home and told him: “Stop messing me and my mother around, leave us alone”.

Bell’s lawyer, Susan Mulligan, told Supreme Court that Mr Spencer had cut off her client’s water supply and that proved to be the “final straw” in a long line of disputes between the pair.

Yesterday, Bell was handed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. Justice Simmons said the 41-year-old’s employment record and family circumstance “tipped the balance” in favour of suspending the sentence instead of imposing an immediate custodial term.

“Factors that reduce the three-year starting point are your previous good character, the year and a half of counselling you have undertaken to resolve or mitigate your behaviour and your guilty plea. That amounts to a 50 per cent reduction,” Justice Simmons said.

Mr Spencer was taking his clothes off the line at Bell’s mother’s home on Crosslands Lane, Pembroke, where Bell lived in the bottom-floor apartment, when Bell approached him. At the time of the attack on August 11, 2014, Bell’s mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had been moved to Jamaica after her son made care arrangements for her.

Prosecutor Christal Hanna said: “The defendant approached Mr Spencer and an argument started. This escalated and when the defendant thought it was going to turn physical, he picked up a mason’s hammer and hit the victim in the upper back and neck area.

“The victim collapsed to the ground and hit his head on a cement block.”

Mr Spencer sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack, including partial temporary paralysis, and was flown overseas for rehabilitative care.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, he said: “As a result of this brutal attack I have suffered weakness, pain, insomnia and headaches.

“I feel like my life will never be the same and cannot stand for long periods of time.”

Ms Mulligan acknowledged that her client “overreacted” and had acted in “the heat of the moment”.

She told the court that Bell and his mother had “attempted many legal avenues to extricate Mr Spencer from their lives”. Ms Mulligan added: “Mr Bell was living in the basement of his mother’s house and Mr Spencer cut off his water supply and an argument ensued.

“He was upset after years and years of this, and this was the final straw. This was not a planned attack but occurred in the heat of the moment.

“Mr Bell is an exceptional person. He has a young child with his wife and two other teenage children who he supports. He has no previous convictions and has been employed at the same company for 18 years.”

Bell, who admitted unlawful wounding, declined to say anything when asked before sentence was passed.