A mum who permanently scarred a boy after hitting him in the face with a boat paddle after a heated confrontation has received a suspended sentence.
Fay Johnson, 32, was paddle-boarding with her family at Conham River Park in Bristol last year when she encountered a group of around 20 to 30 ‘unruly’ children who were allegedly throwing mud and rocks at people boating on the river.
After her daughter was hit by a rock, Johnson became enraged and went over to confront the group about their behaviour, where she encountered Antwon Forrest, 12, who ‘stood up’ to the angry mum.
The two parties exchanged heated comments and started pushing each other – then Johnson used the paddle in her hand to hit Antwon in the face, causing a 1cm-long cut which had to be glued shut.
‘She had clearly lost it, and she was very, very angry at the time,’ prosecutor Ehsanul Oarith told Bristol Crown Court.
Johnson was arrested after witnesses called the police, and admitted actual bodily harm at a previous hearing in March last year.
The incident was initially classed as racially motivated, but these charges were thrown out by the judge.
Johnson, whose address has been withheld following online threats to her and her family, was eventually handed a four-month jail term, suspended for six months, and was forced to pay Antwon a £500 victim surcharge.
Representing Johnson, who wept throughout the hearing, Emma Martin described her client as a devoted mum and stepmum who was ‘ashamed, desperately embarrassed and remorseful’.
Ms Martin said Johnson’s ‘protective maternal instinct spilt over into rage’ after her daughter was hit by one of the rocks being thrown by some of the children.
‘She realised they were throwing things not at her but they seemed to be directed at the children. One of those missiles hit her daughter,’ she told the court.
Judge Edward Burgess told a tearful Johnson: ‘I recognise that the act of violence was wholly out of character for you.
‘Unruly behaviour by a large group of youngsters sets the context, but it in no way justifies it as I think you fully accept.’
‘You struck him in the forehead with a very large paddle, causing a nasty injury which bled heavily at the time and left a visible scar.
‘Every time he looks in the mirror as he grows up, throughout his life, it will be a constant reminder of what you did to him.
‘I am satisfied it was not in any way racially motivated. I accept this was an impulsive act of violence.’
When delivering the verdict, the judge acknowledged the defendant’s good character before the offence, her remorse, her personal circumstances and that she had ‘already suffered significantly’.
Johnson was forced to change jobs and move house due to the backlash she received online, which saw her receive a torrent of ‘terrifying’ abuse.
Speaking outside court, Antwon’s grandma Tania Palmer and aunt Antonia Forrest said they did not want Johnson to go to prison but were surprised the sentence had not been longer.
They expressed concern about the threats Johnson and her family had received, adding they were disappointed the case had not been dealt with sooner.
Miss Forrest, speaking about her nephew, said: ‘He was so traumatised. It has terrified him.’
Johnson declined to give a comment as she left the court.
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