Yob who 'found God' has sentence for brutal attack on homeless man reduced

A teenage thug who nearly battered a homeless man to death in Fishbourne has had his prison sentence cut after good behaviour and 'finding God'.

Oliver Skeggs was part of a gang who nearly killed 40-year-old Paul Vickers as he slept on a bus shelter on the A259 in Fishbourne in July 2007.

In June last year he was sentenced at the Old Bailey to serve a minimum of 13 years in prison for attempted murder and robbery.

But now three senior appeal judges have cut his minimum term by 18 months.

The judges heard of his good behaviour and his efforts to turn his life around through Christianity.

Skeggs had even given a talk about his experiences to an audience which included Cherie Blair.

The decision was met with caution by Fishbourne district councillor Adrian Moss.

He said: "I cannot say I would be delighted to see him in Fishbourne, because what he did was an awful example to everybody – it was an appalling thing to happen.

"If it helps him to realise what he has done wrong, we must encourage that. It was not that long ago it happened, and it seems to me he has very quickly somehow become a wonderful person.

"It would have been more appropriate to have given him longer to prove himself but we don't know the detail behind all of this."

Lord Justice Hughes said when allowing the appeal: "Ghastly though these offences were, that is an enormously long sentence for a young man who was a month past his 17th birthday when the offences were committed.

"If the present indications of a determination to change his ways turn out, as they may, to be a false dawn, then the prison authorities will retain control of this young man indefinitely."

A spokesperson for Chichester Christian and homeless charity Stone- pillow said: "We deplore any acts of violence towards homeless or other vulnerable people.

"We recognise the issues this young man is dealing with are far greater than just finding faith, they are also about how society behaves, and we all should learn from that."

Skeggs will not be allowed to apply for his release until he has served 11 and a half years, after which if considered safe he will be freed.

Just a week before the attack on Mr Vickers, Skeggs had also taken part in the robbery of a 59-year-old wheelchair-bound amputee, who he battered around the head with a wooden bat at his Fishbourne home.

Alistair Field (18) who was also involved in the attack, lost his appeal to get an eight-year sentence cut.