AN army hero wept as he was cleared over a fight which left another soldier brain damaged and battling for his life.
Paul Pattie, 31, was put in a week-long coma after blood pooled between his brain and his ear when Robert Hamilton punched him.
The father-of-one spent weeks in hospital and months at a psychiatric rehabilitation unit after he lost his speech and memory.
But yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, a jury cleared Sergeant Hamilton, 35, of assault after accepting he acted in self-defence.
After his trial Sgt Hamilton, who has served with the One Scots in Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland said he was “more than delighted” at being acquitted by a unanimous verdict.
Sheriff Andrew Lothian said the jury had made the right decision, adding that he “did not see the where the public interest was” in Sgt Hamilton’s prosecution.
Pattie, a sergeant in the same regiment, attacked Sgt Hamilton at a boxing night held at Edinburgh’s Dreghorn Barracks in April.
Drunken Pattie challenged Sgt Hamilton to a “square-go” but backed down as they headed outside.
Seconds later Pattie, who has regained his speech but still suffers from short-term memory loss, headbutted Sgt Hamilton, bursting his lip.
The pair were separated and Sgt Hamilton was taken from the sergeants’ mess, where the celebrations had been going on.
But Pattie followed him out and again approached Sgt Hamilton aggressively at which point the father-of-two retaliated with a right hand punch which knocked Pattie to the ground, causing his horrific injuries.
Pattie said after the fight he went to work the next day but was taken to hospital and kept in a high dependency unit for two weeks as surgeons battled to save him.
He said: “When I woke up I couldn’t remember the days of the week or the months of the year.
“I couldn’t remember my boy’s name or my wife’s name.
“Now when I read something, it is gone as soon as I have finished.”
Of the attack Sgt Hamilton said: “He was coming towards me aggressively and I was worried that if I turned to run away he would have attacked me from behind.”
His defence lawyer, David Allan, said Pattie was “hell bent” on assaulting Sgt Hamilton a second time and his client had no option but to punch him.
Sgt Hamilton said that he regretted the attack as soon as it happened and broke down minutes after the fight.