Jail term increased on Ballymena man who stamped on friend’s head

A Ballymena man who battered his soldier friend so viciously he had to be discharged from the Army has had his sentence increased.

The Court of Appeal ruled that his original seven-and-a-half year jail term was unduly lenient.

Melvyn Bamber, 25, from Ballymena, County Antrim, was ordered to serve an extra 12 months in prison for the attack at a local filling station.

He was jailed for kicking and stamping on Alexander Dowie’s head as he lay unconscious.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan identified a series of aggravating factors, such as inflicting repeated blows on the victim, who was left in a coma for several weeks.

He said: “The attack upon him has had a significant and life-changing impact on him.”

Bamber, formerly of Clonavon Terrace, Ballymena, had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm in the assault at the North Road all-night filling station in Ballymena in the early hours of 27 December, 2011.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC took the case to the Court of Appeal in a bid to have the sentence increased.

Judges were told how Bamber, who had been out on police bail, had felled Mr Dowie with a single punch when they met at the garage after both had been out separately for a night’s drinking.

Witnesses had observed the defendant repeatedly kick and stamp on the victim’s head. He also leant down, picked up his head and punched him again.

Mr Dowie suffered severe brain injuries as well as a fractured skull, and fractures to the nose and cheekbone.

At the time he was a serving soldier in the Royal Irish Regiment, with a distinguished career involving service in Afghanistan.

But as a result of his injuries he had to be discharged from the military on medical grounds.

Although he has since made a better recovery than initially expected, Mr McGrory said: “But for the grace of God Mr Dowie could have been much more seriously injured.”

Ruling on the prosecution challenge, Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justice Coghlin and Mr Justice Maguire, agreed with the trial judge’s description of the attack as “ferocious and brutal”.

Dressed in a grey suit, Bamber showed no emotion as he was escorted out of court in handcuffs to be returned to jail.