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06th Jul 2023

Man declared brain dead wakes up just before life support is switched off

Steve Hopkins

‘All in all the future for my son is looking pretty bleak’

A young man declared brain-dead after being punched on a night out woke up just before his life support was to be switched off.

James Howard-Jones was out in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire with his mates in April last year when he was attacked by Ben Davis.

The 28-year-old fell backwards and hit his head, suffering life-changing injuries that almost killed him.

After undergoing several emergency operations to save him, James’ family was told he was “brain dead” and that the “kindest thing” would be to let him slip away as he’d been unconscious for several weeks.

But before this happened, and before his organs could be donated, James began to regain consciousness.

However, he remains severely mentally and physically disabled and will need care for the rest of his life.

James’ attacker, Ben Davis, a 24-year-old from Cheltenham admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent and was jailed for two years and four months at Gloucester Crown Court on Tuesday.

James’ dad, Neil Howard-Jones, told the court how his family was told the “kindest thing we could do was let him (James) die”.

“I was asked questions that no parent should ever be asked, such as letting his organs be harvested,” he explained before detailing how, “incredibly” his son had regained consciousness, “despite what the experts had told us”.

“Initially he was only able to give eye contact and was unable to move or speak. We are under no illusion James’ brain damage is long-term and will require a level of caring for the rest of his life.

“All in all the future for my son is looking pretty bleak.”

Judge Martin Picton told Davies he had “destroyed the life and hopes of Howard-Jones – a young man in the prime of life with everything to live for” and he had also “broke the hearts of his family and friends”.

“The damage you have caused is devastating and lifelong for all those affected by your criminal act.”

Before being attacked, the court heard, James was an athlete capable of competing in a 100km race.

Davies’ lawyer, Nick Murphy, said his client’s actions were “completely out of character and he now has to live with the consequences”.

A fundraising page has been set up to help Howard-Jones, and as of Thursday afternoon, more than £11,500 had been donated.

A post on the page from his brother reads: “James puts on a brace face, doesn’t complain and keeps working, thrill-seeking, bringing his friends together, so you wouldn’t know how hard life has been at a glance for James. So I’m setting this Gofundme up, hoping that when James recovers, he will be able to take it easy for a month or two, stop working so hard and enjoy life without stressing about his next rent payment.”

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