Soldier’s career ruined after punch during night out in Catterick Garrison

Shaun Warren before his career ended.

A soldier’s military career has been ruined by a punch from a fellow soldier during a night out in Catterick Garrison.

Shaun Warren, 31, is now working as a joiner as his attacker was locked up for just 22 months in a military correctional facility.

The former Lance Corporal Warren of the Coldstream Guards says he cannot understand why the assault by Fijian Lance Corporal Saula Balenaka, 37, of the second battalion Yorkshire Regiment was not dealt with in a criminal court.

Mr Warren was attacked as he walked back to his barracks from a Christmas night out last December and had done nothing to provoke Balenaka.

A court martial heard he had his hands in his pockets when he was punched by the Fijian and fell unconscious to the ground.

He suffered a fractured skull and three bleeds to the brain, which brought an end to a distinguished ten-year military career.

Mr Warren, of Killingworth, North Tyneside, said: “It has been a devastating way to see my career in the army brought to an end, I loved it and I thought I’d be in the Army for many years to come.

“I served in Afghanistan and have seen dangerous situations which soldiers expect to have to deal with but I never saw my service ending like this.

“I was officially medically discharged on August 11th and I’ve had to try to build a new life for myself, whereas he can serve his sentence and go back to his regiment in well under two years.

“He was given credit for his guilty plea, his service record and the fact he has a dependent family. With credit for good behaviour he will only serve two thirds of his sentence.

“It doesn’t feel like justice. It was dealt with by the military because it was “soldier on soldier” but it happened in Catterick as I was walking back to the barracks.

“It could have been dealt with by the civilian police and put in front of a criminal court where the sentence would have been much longer.

“I don’t know how these things are decided but the Army wanted to deal with it themselves and this has been the result. It’s very disappointing.”

Mr Warren had been with regimental comrades at Club Louis when two groups of squaddies began arguing and fighting broke out.

He said: “It didn’t involve me or my group of mates, the only role we played was to try to defuse the situation and calm people down.

“We then left and the last thing I remember was walking home, I can’t remember him approaching me or punching me without warning.

“I woke up in hospital where I was told I would probably have died if my friends hadn’t cleared my airways.

“I discovered I’d been walking along with my hands in my pockets when he hit me and I fell and struck my head and then vomited and choked on it. I will always be grateful to my friends as much as I will always wonder why he attacked me.

“It was apparently a case of mistaken identity but to me that doesn’t excuse it one bit. It was unprovoked and could have killed me.”

Father of three Mr Warren stayed in Darlington Memorial Hospital for four days before being allowed home.

He spent three months convalescing at home, where he was suffering dizziness, confusion and loss of hearing in his left ear which has never returned.

He was then taken into a military hospital where doctors began the process of rehabilitating him to the point where he could return to active duty.

In summer he was able to return to light duties, but the catastrophic injury proved impossible to overcome.

Mr Warren said: “It was too much for me, I couldn’t focus on tasks, my fatigue levels were always high and I’ve become permanently deaf in one ear. I was assessed and I knew what the outcome would be.

“I was officially discharged last month and it was devastating, this isn’t the life I wanted to be living.

“I’ve found work as a joiner, which I trained in before the Army, and I’m glad and grateful to be given a job with a construction firm, but I miss my life in the Army.”

Balenka was sentenced to 22 months in military prison after he admitted the assault at a court martial hearing in Catterick on Monday September 7th.

He will serve his time in the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) in Colchester, Essex, for what the hearing was told was an “unprovoked attack” which left a “10 year career over in 10 minutes.”

Mr Warren said: “The judge made the point that I had played no part in any trouble and was simply walking home. It was so senseless and it’s had the most devastating effect on me and my family.”

An Army spokesman said: “We can confirm Lance Corporal Balenaka, of 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, was found guilty of grievous bodily harm at the Military Courts Centre Catterick and sentenced to 22 months’ detention.”

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