Punch victim lucky to be alive
NEWS last week of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly's death after a king hit from an unknown attacker in Kings Cross sent chills up the spines of many, but for Josh Gorman of Maclean, the tragedy was a sombre reminder of just how lucky he was to be alive.
Mr Gorman, 20, was with friends at the Crown Hotel in Grafton on September 20, 2010, the night of the hockey grand finals when a fight broke out between a person he knew and another young man.
"I found that out later; I didn't know what had happened at that stage," he said.
The pub was shut down and revellers were moved onto Prince St where a former sporting mate of Mr Gorman's came up and asked him: "which one of your mates hit (name withheld)?"
"By this stage there was a group of them surrounding me ... I told them I had no idea but they kept going at me," he said.
"Next thing you know (name withheld) comes over the top and hits me - I don't remember anything after that."
Three Grafton men were charged with Mr Gorman's assault, one of them bragging on Facebook about stomping his head.
Charges against two of the men were dismissed on the grounds of self-defence although it was acknowledged that one man struck first in one of the fights on the night.
Magistrate David Heilpern said the man was put in a position of "no choice" when he was confronted in the street by a group of men.
"He struck first in an effort to stop himself being hurt further," Mr Heilpern said.
Many of the witnesses in the court case were intoxicated at the time of the incident and this was noted by the court as versions of events varied considerably.
Mr Gorman maintains he was simply out with friends and was never an aggressor on the night.
The assault, including a group of men kicking him on the ground, left Mr Gorman with a shattered cheek bone, chipped teeth, a compressed nasal bone and broken blood vessels in the eye socket.
"I had numbness in the face for six months," he said.
He has plates in his face to support his left eye and hold up his cheeks.
The plumber had to have three weeks off work and aside from the physical scarring is also left with a fear that haunts him when voices are raised nearby.
"If arguments happen with my mates the first thing I say is 'Remember what happened to me'.
"I don't go out in Grafton any more; I have a lot of friends here but I just don't do it any more. I just don't feel safe going out."
He said he was disappointed and frustrated with the result of the court case but could understand how the magistrate could only deal with the facts presented to him in court.
He said CCTV cameras would have helped his case.
"When it first happened I wanted revenge but now I want to be the better man and just let it go."
When discussing the case of Thomas Kelly, Mr Gorman said that could easily have been him and proved how a moment of recklessness could ruin the lives of victims, aggressors and their families alike.
Describing alcohol-related violence and post-pub fights as a "blight on the community", Mr Heilpern acknowledged that "sometimes very sensible young men will do very stupid things when they are drunk".