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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 15:31 GMT
Family's outrage at sentence
Court graphic
The brother of an innocent passer-by who died after an unprovoked street attack reacted angrily to his killer's jail sentence being increased by only one year.

Three judges ordered the increase after complaints by the family of student Paul Simpson, 34, were taken up by the Attorney General and referred to the Court of Appeal.

The judges added one year to Alfred Welch's three-year sentence for the "one punch" manslaughter.

Mr Simpson's brother Geoff said it was a "ridiculous" sentence.

This was a gratuitous act of violence. It was not just a single assault, but one of three

Norman Brennan, Victims of Crime Trust

After leaving court in London with other members of the family, he said: "The man who killed my brother will only have to serve half his four-year sentence.

"That is ridiculous, out of date and out of touch."

The court heard on the night Mr Simpson was killed in March 2001, Welch had spent the evening drinking heavily and went out for a drive with a friend.

For his own amusement, Welch had called members of the public over to the passenger window of a pick-up truck and punched them in the face as part of a game.

Two men suffered bruising, but his third victim, Mr Simpson, fell backwards, hit his head on the pavement and died later in hospital from brain damage.

Double jeopardy

Welch, 22, of Harris Street, Darlington, Durham, pleaded guilty at Teesside Crown Court last July to manslaughter and causing actual bodily harm.

On Friday, Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Mrs Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Gross, agreed that three years was "unduly lenient".

He said five years would have been appropriate, but reduced that to four years because Welch had had to face the "double jeopardy" of being sentenced twice.

Welch, of previous good character, had shown genuine remorse and it was clear he had not intended to cause really serious bodily harm, said the judge.

A sentence of four years is an insult to this man's family

Norman Brennan, Victims of Crime Trust

Geoff Simpson said later the decision did nothing to represent the interests of the victims of crime - who in this case included himself and his brother's partner, daughter and step-daughter.

"The law relating to manslaughter is out of touch and must be changed," he said.

Norman Brennan, national director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: "This shows how the courts value human life.

"This was a gratuitous act of violence. It was not just a single assault, but one of three.

"This particular individual was a violent thug on that night.

"If we are to turn the tide against increasing violence, then the judges must reflect that in their sentencing.

"A sentence of four years is an insult to this man's family and to all members of the law-abiding public."

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