Woman spared jail after hitting 12-year-old boy with paddle


Fay Johnson, 32, admitted assaulting Antwon Forrest, who was attacked while with friends at Conham River Park in Bristol on 26 March last year.

Ellen Manning

Fri, 13 January 2023 at 10:38 am GMT

Antwon Forrest (left) was left scarred after being hit with a paddle by Fay Johnson (right). (Reach)
Antwon Forrest (left) was left scarred after being hit with a paddle by Fay Johnson (right). (Reach)

A woman who left a 12-year-old boy permanently scarred after hitting him in the face with a paddle has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Fay Johnson, 32, admitted assaulting Antwon Forrest, who was attacked while with friends at Conham River Park in Bristol on 26 March last year.

Johnson was paddleboarding on the river with three children while Antwon was part of a group of up to 30 children at the park, Bristol Crown Court heard.

Some of the children were throwing balls of mud and rocks at those passing on the river, hitting boats, canoes and paddleboards, the court heard, but there was no evidence Antwon was doing so.

Fay Johnson  leaves Bristol Crown Court. Bristol. 12 January 2023. See SWNS story SWMRpaddle. A woman who assaulted a 12-year-old boy with a paddle on a riverbank has narrowly avoided jail. Fay Johnson, 32, attacked the youngster who suffered an injury to his head during the incident on the banks of the River Avon in Bristol last March. The child and friends were playing near the water when they were confronted by Johnson who told them off. Police initially took no action - which lead to accusations of racial bias as the lad was the only black child in the group.
Fay Johnson was handed a suspended sentence at Bristol Crown Court. (SWNS)

Prosector Ehsanul Oarith said an “agitated and visibly angry” Johnson confronted the group of children after her paddleboard was hit, leading to the incident involving Antwon.

“A witness saw them push each other, following which the defendant used the seven-foot-long paddle in her hand to hit Antwon Forrest,” he told the court.

“There was a cut on his forehead. It was a 1cm-long cut which had to be glued closed. She had clearly lost it, she was very, very angry at the time.”

Avon and Somerset Police received a number of calls, the court heard, including from Johnson, who was arrested.

She was later de-arrested and initially not prosecuted but the force reviewed the case following a campaign by Antwon’s family. It was reclassified as racially motivated and Johnson was charged with assault.

Sentencing Johnson, Judge Edward Burgess ruled the attack was not racially motivated.

Antwon Forrest
Antwon has been left traumatised by the incident, his family said. (Reach)

Representing Johnson, who wept throughout the hearing, Emma Martin said she was a devoted mother and stepmother who was “ashamed, desperately embarrassed and remorseful”.

She said Johnson’s “protective maternal instinct spilt over into rage” after her daughter was hit by one of the rocks being thrown by some of the children.

The court heard that in the aftermath of the incident, Johnson and her family received abuse including death threats, meaning they have had to move house and she has changed jobs.

Judge Edward Burgess sentenced Johnson to four months in prison, suspended for six months.

He said: “You struck him in the forehead with a very large paddle, causing a nasty injury which bled heavily at the time and has left a visible scar.

“Every time he looks in the mirror as he grows up, throughout his life, it will be a constant reminder of what you did to him.

“I am satisfied it was not in any way racially motivated. I accept this was an impulsive act of violence.”

He said the sentence could be suspended given Johnson’s good character before the offence, her remorse, her personal circumstances and the fact that she had “already suffered significantly”.

Johnson has received death threats since the incident, the court heard. (SWNS)
Johnson has received death threats since the incident, the court heard. (SWNS)

Johnson was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to Antwon, who is now aged 13.

Speaking outside court, Antwon’s grandmother Tania Palmer and aunt Antonia Forrest said they did not want Johnson to go to prison but were surprised the sentence had not been longer.

They expressed concern about the threats Johnson and her family had received, adding they were disappointed the case had not been dealt with sooner.

Forrest said the incident had “traumatised” her nephew, saying: “It has terrified him.”

Johnson, whose address cannot be published for legal reasons, did not comment as she left court.

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