Mercy for `Stressed' Soldier Who Battered Widow, 83, with Chair

Article excerpt

A former soldier who beat an 83-year-old widow with a chair escaped a jail term yesterday.

David Smith, 21, was put on probation after a court heard he was traumatised by a colleague's suicide in the Army.

Smith forced his way into Margaret Paterson's home in April last year and demanded money and drink.

He hit Margaret over the head with a chair and repeatedly beat her with a piece of broken furniture.

The pensioner spent two days in hospital and is still receiving counselling to cope with her horrific ordeal.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Smith, formerly of Stirling, admitted assaulting Margaret to the danger of her life.

But yesterday, judge Lady Cosgrove placed Smith on probation for two years and ordered him to attend a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

She warned him if he failed to co-operate with the treatment, he would face a substantial prison sentence.

Smith escaped a jail term after the court heard he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after seeing a friend kill himself while they were on guard duty at a base at Catterick in Yorkshire.

Ian Donaldson, defending, said medical opinion was that a jail sentence would only aggravate the condition.

But an elderly neighbour of Margaret in Cambusbarron, near Stirling, yesterday hit out at the decision.

The neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: "I think it is maddening that he has escaped jail.

"I think he was just putting it on to get a lighter sentence. The law is an ass."

The neighbour said Smith was known to people in the street after raiding a house there when he was just 12

She described how Margaret came to her door dripping in blood after the attack. …