A joiner who knocked a man unconscious with a single blow after he was warned that such a punch could kill was told yesterday he was lucky not to be facing a murder charge.
The warning came from Judge Geoffrey Miller QC as he sentenced Co Down man Connor James Ward (25), who admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm on the man on September 7 last year.
The Downpatrick Crown Court judge told Ward that the warning that punches can kill represented "nothing less than the truth".
Had matters turned out differently the defendant might have found himself "facing a charge of manslaughter or even murder".
Ward, from Leitrim Road in Castlewellan, whose claim of self-defence was rejected by Judge Miller, was freed on an 18-month probation term after being ordered to complete 70 hours of community service and to pay his victim £1,000 compensation.
In written submissions, prosecution counsel David McClean revealed that Ward had earlier allegedly assaulted his victim's son, outside a bar in Newcastle where they had all been drinking.
The man had gone to investigate, asking for Ward and demanding to know why he had allegedly attacked his son.
Judge Miller said CCTV footage showed Ward crossing the road and taking off his jacket while pursued by the injured party, before both men turned to face each other. Ward is then seen punching the man "hard to the face".
"One of the witnesses at the scene saw trouble brewing and shouted over that one punch could kill, but the defendant told her to "f*** up," added the judge.
The man later had to undergo surgery for fractures to his face and skull. During interview Ward, claiming he was acting in self-defence, told police his victim was "trying to kill me".
Judge Miller said while it was agreed the injured party approached Ward before following him across the road - an unwise move probably borne out of anger and possible drink, he presented no physical threat to Ward - a much younger and heavier man.
The judge added he considered Ward removing of his coat "to be a clear notice of intent on his part" and that "I am satisfied that this is not a case of self-defence but rather deliberate aggression on the defendant's part", although he did not follow up on the single blow he delivered.