Monday 22 January 2018

Teenager who fatally punched pensioner for not giving him a cigarette jailed for four years

Luke Woods who has been sentenced to four years and four months in detention at Liverpool Crown Court
Luke Woods who has been sentenced to four years and four months in detention at Liverpool Crown Court

Eleanor Barlow

A teenager who fatally punched a man because he didn't give him a cigarette has been sentenced to four years and four months in detention.

Leonard Saunders, 65, died after he was punched in the street in St Helens, Merseyside, by 17-year-old Luke Woods on July 21.

Sentencing Woods at Liverpool Crown Court, Honorary Recorder of Liverpool Judge Clement Goldstone described Mr Saunders as "a shining, yet very modest, star within the local St Helens community to which he devoted his life".

Woods, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Wednesday morning, had been walking through St Helens just after 6.40pm on Friday July 21, when he approached Mr Saunders, who was with his friend Gregory Taylor, and asked for a cigarette.

When they told him they did not smoke, Woods, of Union Street, St Helens, punched Mr Saunders, causing him to fall to the ground and fracture his skull.

The pensioner died in hospital nine days later.

Len Saunders died after he was punched in the street by 17-year-old Woods
Len Saunders died after he was punched in the street by 17-year-old Woods

Judge Goldstone said: "You snuffed out his life and brought untold sadness and grief to countless people.

"No sentence of this court can or will be seen as doing justice to the mindless violence which you perpetrated against Mr Saunders on the afternoon in question and no sentence of this court can bring him back."

The court heard Woods, who was drunk and had taken drugs, had already told his friend he would punch someone if he did not get a cigarette.

Judge Goldstone said: "You were not so drunk as to be unaware that you had knocked Mr Saunders out and you made good your escape from the scene."

When police went to his home to arrest him the following day, Woods tried to headbutt an officer and had to be restrained as he attempted to escape.

Mr Saunders' niece Heba Soliman told the court he had dedicated his life to charity and volunteering work.

She said said: "We will never forgive or forget the actions of the person that did this.

"He took away our beloved Len's life. He did so in the most evil and vicious way."

The court also heard a statement from Ann Shacklady-Smith, given on behalf of Mr Saunders' friends, art and social groups and networks in St Helens.

She said: "The space he leaves behind cannot be filled and we all miss him dearly.

"We wish to place on record the enormity of the loss that has been caused by this senseless act of violence that has stolen from us all a man of many talents, great integrity and humanity and who walked through his life with a generous heart and spirit."

Press Association

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