A STREET attacker who left a teacher blind and unable to work has been spared an immediate jail sentence.
John Phillips was a passenger on a bus when he saw an argument between English and history teacher Gregory Bushnell and a group of youths who had been playing ‘knock, knock ginger’ at his house nearby.
Ex-convict and drug addict Phillips reacted by getting off the bus and attacking Mr Bushnell, who he bit and kicked before landing a brutal punch which burst his right eyeball.
Mr Bushnell, who was already almost blind in the other eye, was left totally blind for three and a half months, partially blind for life, and unable to carry on teaching. His remaining vision is so bad he cannot drive or watch television.
He and his partner left their home in Teignmouth, to try to get photos of the youths who had been pestering them for months. They had made repeated complaints to police about the anti-social behaviour and been advised to obtain evidence.
They followed a group of teenagers into the centre of the town where Phillips saw them from the top floor of a bus which he was taking to go fishing with a friend in Dawlish. He believed mistakenly that Mr Bushnell was threatening the youths and got off to intervene.
Mr Phillips said he had been forced to give up his career as a teacher and has worked as a senior teaching assistant or cover supervisor. He has lost thousands of pounds in salary and is having to pay for repeated changes in lenses and specialist eye drops. His sight was partially restored by surgery to his left eye but all he can see from the damaged right eye is a ‘blob’
Phillips, aged 44, of Apple Tree Close, Chudleigh Knighton, was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm by a jury at Exeter Crown Court in April.
He was jailed for two years, suspended for two years, made subject of a 12 months drug rehabilitation requirement, and ordered to address issues of accommodation, work, and emotional management during 30 days of rehabilitation activities by Judge Anna Richardson.
The sentencing guideline for the assault has a starting point of three years with a range of two to four. Sentences over two years cannot be suspended. The Judge said she was taking into account that the attack had been impulsive and there was an element of excessive self-defence.
She told Phillips: 'You have been assessed by probation as being at a turning point and there is evidence of change and that you are a realistic prospect of rehabilitation and that your risk can be managed in the community.
'That would appear to be right, given that this was two years ago and you have not offended since.'
During a four-day trial, the jury heard the attack happened in Regent Street, Teignmouth, on the afternoon of April 5, 2021, when Mr Bushnell had followed a group of youths into town.
Phillips misread the situation, got off the bus, approached Mr Bushnell from behind and punched him. Mr Bushnell got up and raised his hands to try to ward off further blows. He was bitten on the face and shoulder, kicked and then hit with the punch that injured his eye.
Phillips had no injuries when he was arrested and taken off the bus by police.
Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said Phillips had stayed out of trouble for several years and reacted impetuously to what he saw from the top deck of the bus.
His arrest led to him being thrown out by his partner, being homeless and living in a tent but he is now desperate for help to overcome his long standing drug addiction so he can rebuild the relationship.