Thug who destroyed Plymouth man's life could leave prison early

Callum Turner was 'minding his own business' when he was punched in the side of the head in an entirely unprovoked attack
-Credit: (Image: Family photo)


The parents of a young man left with severe brain damage after he suffered an unprovoked assault in North Hill fear his attacker could be released from jail this summer due to emergency measures to combat prison overcrowding.

The End of Custody Supervised License (ECSL) was introduced in October to ease overcrowding in jails across England and Wales. It allows certain prisoners to be released up to 70 days before the end of their sentence. However, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons that "no one" would be put on to the scheme "if they were deemed a threat to public safety".

The government said sex offenders, terrorists, serious violent offenders, and those serving sentences of more than four years would not be eligible. Earlier this month a further emergency measure - Operation Early Dawn - was triggered by the Ministry of Justice which would result in defendants remaining in police custody and not be transferred to magistrates' court for bail hearings, in case there isn't any space in jail cells for that prisoner if they are remanded in custody.

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News of the two emergency measures - brought about due to the dire situation of severe overcrowding in prisons - have raised concerns for Wendy and Alan Turner, parents of 20-year-old Callum, who was attacked by 33-year-old Paul Roberts on the evening of July 17, 2021 as he walked along North Hill.

Roberts was among a group of rowdy men on North Hill and had been drinking most of the day - and had taken cocaine. One witness told police Roberts was "particularly aggressive - pacing and shouting".

As Callum walked up the road, Roberts stepped up to him and said "I'm in the f***ing mood for a fight" before punching Callum to the side of the head in an entirely unprovoked assault. The court heard that Callum fell back and cracked his head on the pavement with one witness saying they heard a "cracking sound".

Mugshot of Paul Martin David Roberts who is smiling
Roberts had been drinking most of the day and had taken cocaine -Credit:Devon and Cornwall Police

Callum was taken to hospital were he underwent a CT scan and found to have a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain. He remained in hospital but on July 22, 2021 he took a turn for the worse and became violently sick, unsteady on his feet and suffered multiple seizures. Another CT scan found a far worse bleed on the brain and he was put on a ventilator and given fluids intravenously. The following day he continued to suffer seizures and had to undergo life-saving surgery, with part of his skull and brain removed and a device to monitor cranial pressure inserted.

Over the next few weeks he slowly recovered, but it was found that while his progress was physically good he was confused and could only say a few words. He was discharged on August 18 2021 but has since needed help with acute memory loss, has suffered significant cognitive development issues and is now in need of support to make the most basic of daily needs.

Having initially denied the offence, Roberts pleaded guilty three weeks before his trial at Plymouth Crown Court.

The prosecutor told the court that Callum was just 19 at the time, was a "'quiet, well liked young man' who hoped to study Criminology at university and become a police officer - his dream career since he was a boy. By comparison the court heard that Roberts had 33 convictions to his name from 81 offences, largely vehicle related, but also with five offences of violence including actual bodily harm and battery.

At the sentencing hearing in February 2023 Judge William Hart noted that the family and friends of the victim had been made aware of the "very limited sentence powers" the court had in such a case, before he remarked that whether the sentencing powers for this kind of assault would ever be considered to be raised: "I for one would not be unhappy if they were".

He passed a sentence of 39 months, taking account of the sentencing guidelines which gave a 15 percent discount for the early guilty plea. Roberts was told he would be released at the half way stage, which would have been expected to be around September 24, with the remainder of his term being served on licence.

However, Callum's parents say they have been warned that Roberts could walk free from prison up to two months early. They said it could be almost exactly three years after the incident in North Hill on July 17, 2021 when Callum Turner's life, and the lives of his family, changed beyond recognition.

Speaking to PlymouthLive, Wendy Turner, Callum's mum, said: "We know that the judge wanted to give Roberts more jail time but couldn't."

Wendy said she watched the news concerning prison laws and criminals being freed early. She then contacted the victim liaison officer for the case who she says got in touch with the prison liaison, who Wendy said acknowledged Roberts would be 'eligible' for early release.

Wendy said: "They shouldn't even be looking at him [Roberts] to come out on early release. It was a serious crime - Callum's life was changed by it, as was ours.

"The law isn't right - the law is over 100 years old. The judge even said it wasn't fit for purpose and he would welcome a change. It wasn't the right sentence to begin with. I can't get it out of my head that he might get early release.

"Even though it's just 70 days [early] it's too much to stomach. He will have two months off early, to go out and do it again. He probably will. On the night he attacked Callum he tried to get away with it. He's already got 30 odd convictions to his name.

"He never showed a shred of remorse - he certainly hadn't after being convicted more than 30 times.

"I spoke to Callum about it," Wendy added. "Callum's life has changed dramatically. This year he should've been graduating from his university - but that's not going to happen, ever. We have lived and breathed that punch every single day and we still will for every single day to come.

"I really, really thought 'it won't be him'. Even Callum did not think it would be him. The devastation of it.

"I suffer with anxiety now. Callum will go out with friends and I just can't rest when he's out now. I go and pick him up, whatever the time now. It's changed things completely. I get petrified when he's out.

"I just don't get it? Why him? I think to myself that Mr Sunak should come and meet us and tell us that he [Roberts] is allowed to come out early. I've got a question for the Prime Minister on this case - how are you looking at someone like Roberts and think they're not a threat to society?"

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