THE family of a vulnerable man left traumatised after an unprovoked assault, has spoken out after his attacker was given early release from prison.

Reece Woodley-Slater was left physically and emotionally scarred after he was repeatedly punched in the face by Patrick Andrew Hall in a case of mistaken identity.

Hall was a passenger in a car driven by his wife on Watling Road, Bishop Auckland, at 6pm, on June 9 last year.

His wife identified the 25-year-old as the man responsible for stealing her mobile phone while she played with her daughter in a park a fortnight earlier.

Hall confronted Mr Woodley-Slater who turned to carry on walking along the road, when he was struck with three hard punches to the side of the face.

The victim – who has learning difficulties and is visually impaired – was unable to defend himself due to his poor vision.

He was left covered in his own blood and needed surgery under general anaesthetic following a fracture to the upper jaw, which was hanging loose.

Mr Woodley-Slater said: “He was asking to see my phone then the next thing I knew my jaw was hanging off.

“I was checking bus times with my friend when the man got out of the car and said he wanted to see it. I was trying to get away from him but he kept asking. I showed him my phone which had a picture of my dad on it. I thought he’d know it was mine but then he punched me.

“I think it’s a joke he has been let out of prison this early. I’m so angry, I didn’t go out much before but I never go out now just in case it happens again. I’ve always been wary of strangers but even more so now.

“I prefer going out at night as there’s less people, so I feel safer.”

Following the attack, Hall was arrested by police and pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm at Durham Crown Court which imposed a 20-month prison sentence.

Hall was also given a ten-year restraining order preventing contacting or approaching Mr Woodley-Slater.

He told police: “It was completely my fault. I have obviously ‘lost it’. It’s all on me. It was completely out of character. I feel terrible about it.”

After the incident, Mr Woodley-Slater was unable to eat solids and was on a liquid diet for six weeks.

He is now able to eat normally but is prone to nose bleeds and expects further surgery on his jaw in the future.

His sister Rebecca Slater, said: “He has become a recluse and even struggles to visit the cemetery for his dad, something which is really important to him.

“Reece has PTSD because of the attack, it has affected him so much he usually doesn’t get out of his pyjamas but nothing has happened to the perpetrator.

“We thought the police and judge were amazing and feel like justice would have been served if he did his sentence.

“We feel let down by the prison and the probation officer and feel like there is more help for the prisoners than the victims.

“The prison and probation service have failed him, he has done less than a third of his sentence which has affected not just Reece but the whole family.”

Mr Woodley-Slater’s mother Susan Slater, added: “The do-gooders in the prison service care more about the thugs behind bars than they do about the victims.

“Justice hasn’t been served and Reece is the one who has been punished.”

Hall's release was subject to the home detention curfew (HDC) which allows for the early release and monitoring of prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment between 12 weeks and under four years.

The HDC scheme has been running since 1999 and enables suitable prisoners to be released early under an electronically-monitored curfew, subject to passing a risk assessment.

Prisoners must serve at least a quarter of the sentence but may be released up to 135 days before their automatic release date at the half-way point of sentence.

If an offender is eligible, an offender manager will assess the suitability of the proposed address and advise the prison governor of any risk management actions that will need to be addressed prior to release.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “While decisions to release a prisoner on home detention curfew are a matter for individual governors, offenders are electronically tagged and subject to strict licence conditions. If these restrictions are breached they face a return to prison.”

A spokesperson from the Victim Support (VS) charity said: "It can be extremely frightening to experience a violent crime. As well as being injured physically, victims are often very seriously affected emotionally. It is common to find it hard to deal with the feelings that result from such a traumatic incident, especially when the victim feels that the outcome is not just.

"Anyone seeking help can contact Victim Support via our free confidential 24/7 supportline on 0808-1689111."