The legal status of bouncers and doormen has long been controversial regarding just how much power they have to keep the peace on a premises. Much of what they do appears very heavy handed and would often be assumed by a reasonable person to be excessive, only to transpire as being within their remit. However, security personnel could be about to face a far more stringent set of regulations after a pub doorman was sentenced to two years in prison for a punter’s manslaughter.
On August 17th, 2012, Neil Hotchkiss was working as a doorman at the Station Hotel and Bar in Wellington Shropshire. An incident ensued in which he asked Scott Taylor to leave the pub and the altercation continued outside. The end result after a heated exchange of words was Taylor lying on the pavement, having been knocked out by a single punch from Hotchkiss.
Taylor did survive his injuries and remained alive until his death on April 30th, 2016 at the age of 44. However, evidence was presented at Stoke on Trent Crown Court that in the interim he had suffered a stroke, developed epilepsy and been left with a degree of paralysis, requiring a wheelchair. Hotchkiss had already been sentenced to 16 months in prison when he pled guilty to causing grievous bodily harm. At his new trial for manslaughter, Robert Price for the prosecution said: –
“Mr Taylor may have been upset but was not being aggressive. There comes a stage when Mr Taylor goes towards Hotchkiss. If contact was made it was only light. The defendant reacts by punching Mr Taylor. He falls backwards heavily and his head contacts heavily with the ground. Ultimately he suffered grave and life-changing injuries and died from complications because of those injuries”
Hotchkiss’ defence counsel Martin Lidyard did respond but ultimately went no further than attempting to show that his client acknowledged his wrongdoing. He told the court: –
“We would like to make it quite clear to the court and to perhaps to Mr Taylor’s family that there was never any intention not to accept responsibility”
In his summing up of the case, Judge Paul Glenn whilst acknowledging that to kill someone with a single punch was tragic, made it abundantly clear that the actions on that night in 2012 had completely changed Taylor’s life and Hotchkiss should not have responded with violence. He said: –
“This is a tragic case; the illness sustained by Mr Taylor was both life-changing and devastating and was so serious that he could not live independently. All that was a result of your actions”
Taylors daughter Kirsty did express outrage that a man who ruined her dad’s life could only receive such a short sentence [the original 16 months]saying: –
“I’m just so angry that it’s such a short sentence. He will serve half of it so will be out in eight months and can carry on with everything as normal”
Many will probably agree that a two-year sentence for taking a life albeit inadvertently, is too short. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is consistent with the sentencing guidelines. What must happen, is stricter regulation of doorman to ensure their sometimes-heavy-handed attitudes are monitored, to ensure this does not happen again.