A MAN who hit two teenage girls in the face with his belt in Henley has been jailed for a year.
Gurpreet Gulati, 26, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing actual bodily harm when he appeared at Oxford Crown Court.
The court heard the victims were 14 and 15 years old at the time of the attack, which took place in Mill Meadows on April 15 last year.
One of the girls requires lifelong medication as a result of her injuries.
Isobel Ascherson, prosecuting, said an argument had broken out between Gulati’s friends, who had been celebrating the Sikh new year, and a group of teenagers who were having a picnic in the park.
Gulati, a jewellery designer, of Wraysbury Drive, West Drayton, removed his belt and chased one of the teenage boys before hitting the two girls.
Miss Ascherson said: “They had done nothing, they had said nothing, they were merely standing by.”
One girl was hit in the face with the belt and fell to the ground. Gulati then turned to the other girl and hit her in the face and continued to hit her until she also fell to the ground.
Photographs showing the victims’ injuries after the attack were shown to the jury.
One girl had a black eye and a cut under her right eye as well as damage to her scalp. The other had reddening and swelling where she had been struck and scabbing on her scalp behind her right ear. Miss Ascherson said that the victims’ statements showed they had suffered long-term physical and emotional effects.
One of the girls has been prescribed daily beta blockers for migraines which she had not experienced before the attack and has been told that she will need to take the medication for the rest of her life. She has permanent scarring underneath her right eye.
The other girl has been left with a scar behind her right ear.
The court heard the attack took place while Gulati was serving a suspended prison sentence for causing actual bodily harm in an incident in November 2010 in which he kicked a woman and hit her with a broom until she fell to the ground. He then continued to hit and kick her until he was pulled off her.
Gulati was sentenced to 39 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, for this offence.
He had also been fined for a common assault on a woman in September 2007.
Charles Crinion, for Gulati, said the attack on the girls had been a “moment of madness”.
He said his client had an anger problem but was taking steps to address it, including turning to religion and spending more time with his family.
Mr Crinion said: “He found it very hard to accept that he did this horrible attack. He found it very hard to admit it to his family and those close to him. He has been deeply affected by what he did and has shown much remorse.”
Mr Crinion said Gulati, who designs costume jewellery for the family business, had continued to carry out unpaid work in a hospice after his compulsory community service for the broom attack had ended.
He asked the judge to take into consideration that Gulati’s wife is five months pregnant with their first child as well as a character reference from his sister which said there had been a change in Gulati’s behaviour and attitude since the offence.
Recorder Julian Knowles called the attack “absolutely disgusting”.
He said: “This was a nasty, violent and premeditated attack with a weapon on two young victims who had done nothing to you. They posed no threat to you and had not provoked you in any way. It must have been extremely frightening for the two young girls and for those who saw it.”
He said it was a “worrying feature” that all Gulati’s victims had been female but that he deserved credit for pleading guilty and preventing the girls from having to give evidence in court.
Sentencing Gulati to 12 months for each offence to run concurrently, the recorder said he hoped that fatherhood would mature him.
“I have real hopes that if you continue with the path I am told that you have started down you will be able to turn your past around, deal with the demons of your anger issues that you plainly have and this will be your last appearance in court,” he said.
Gulati, who blew a kiss to his family in the public gallery as he was led to the cells, is likely to be released from prison half-way through his sentence.
Thames Valley Police used forensic tests costing thousands of pounds to catch the girls’ attacker.
The metal buckle of the belt which Gurpreet Gulati used as a weapon was found in Mill Meadows after a thorough search by officers and was sent to a forensics laboratory for DNA testing.
Pc Katie Ford, who investigated the case, said: “It’s a very long process and can cost thousands of pounds. It took a good while, about six months.”
The results of the tests matched the DNA to Gulati, whose details was on the police database.
He was arrested and his home was searched and a belt with a missing buckle was found. This was then sent to a forensics laboratory for DNA testing.
Pc Ford said: “It was conclusive that the belt and the buckle were from the same item and there were traces of Gulati’s and the victims’ DNA.”
Gulati was charged with two counts of causing actual bodily harm.
Pc Ford said: “It was a huge investigation and the work paid off in the end, thanks to all the officers and the public.
“On the day of the assault one member of the public helped searched for the belt.”