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2 April 2015, 17:22
An attacker who killed a Sunderland dad with a single punch when he stepped in to try and stop a fight in the street has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
John Potts, who was described by one of his grieving daughters as her "hero", died at the scene of the trouble he was trying to stop outside of NE38 sports bar in Washington in the early hours of November 23 last year.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 45-year-old "big softie" had been drinking at the bar, as had his killer Gordon Robson, 26, who had been pallbearer at his grandfather's funeral that day.
It was after the pub closed, violence flared between Robson and another man, who had been drinking with Mr Potts, with punches being thrown.
Prosecutor Nick Dry told the court:
"At this point the defendant punched Mr Potts, who had been trying to calm matters down and was actually facing the other way when the blow was struck."
"The punch made a loud crack, witnesses turned to see him falling to the ground, making no attempt to break his fall."
The court heard despite intervention from the emergency services, Mr Potts could not be saved.
Mr Dry added:
"Mr Potts had been minding his own business. He was an innocent bystander who sought only to calm the situation down."
Mr Potts' distraught widow Sarah said in her victim statement his death has had a devastating impact on the family, including his stepchildren and eight year old daughter, who now fears her family won't come back whenever they leave the house.
His daughter Emma has also been deeply effected by the tragedy.
Mr Dry added:
"She said he was a father who never judged her, he was just her dad and hero."
Mr Potts' sisters said in their statements the "life and soul has been ripped from their family" and described their brother as a "big softie".
Mr Potts' brother George said he wakes every Sunday at 5.30am, the time he was informed of his siblings death, and feels life has been changed forever.
Judge Paul Sloan QC jailed Robson, of Waskerley Way, Washington, who admitted manslaughter, to three-and-a-half years behind bars.
The judge told Robson:
"Mr Potts was trying to calm the situation."
"He was acting as a peacemaker.
"It is clear Mr Potts was a devoted father and step-father."
"It is also clear his death has had a profound effect upon his family."
"No sentence imposed upon you could ever serve to ease the pain of Mr Potts' family."
"I accept you are genuinely remorseful and I accept you will carry the guilt with you for the rest of your life for what you did that night."
In his basis of plea, Robson accepted he "misinterpreted" Mr Robson's actions that night, when his already emotional state had been heightened by alcohol, and realises now he should not have hit him.
Bob Spragg, defending, said Robson, who has a history of violent offending dating back to when he was just 14, had turned his life around after his last prison sentence and has a partner who is about to give birth.
Mr Spragg said;
"Absolutely no blame attaches to Mr Potts for anything that happened to him."
"Once the defendant has served his sentence he will return to being a law abiding citizen but will have to live with what he has done for the rest of his life."