Victim could’ve died – judge

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A judge has told a Queenstown electrical apprentice he’s lucky not to be in jail for a coward’s punch that left a man lying senseless and bleeding on the footpath.

Alexander William Tarbotton, 28, of Fernhill, got in a heated discussion with his victim during an altercation between a group of men outside a Camp Street bar at 3am on July 18 last year.

However, without warning he punched the victim in the head, knocking him to the ground.

The victim lay unconscious for up to four minutes, bleeding heavily from the back of his head.

Tarbotton bolted, but was caught by police after a short foot chase.

His victim was taken to Lakes District Hospital, where he received stitches for a 4cm gash in his head and a 1.5cm cut to his upper lip.

He was also diagnosed with concussion, and had no memory of the incident.

Tarbotton, who last October admitted a charge of injuring with intent to injure, was told by Judge Michael Turner in Queenstown’s court this week his victim could’ve died, and he would be facing prison for manslaughter.

At last year’s hearing before Judge Russell Walker, defence counsel Tanya Surrey said it was a ‘‘night out gone wrong’’ for the defendant, who had no previous convictions.

He accepted he was at fault for the way he reacted, and had not intended to cause the injuries suffered by the victim.

The defendant had been drinking excessively for several months before the incident as a way of coping with a personal tragedy, Surrey said.

‘‘Mr Tarbotton realises with the crystal-clear vision of hindsight that consoling himself with alcohol was not the way [to deal with] his grief.’’

However, Walker said the defendant was granted diversion for a similar incident about two years earlier.

After last year’s incident, he initially told police he acted in self-defence.

‘‘This was a cowardly and unprovoked attack on a person completely taken by surprise by your punch.

‘‘The victim had absolutely no chance to defend himself, and fell to the ground unconscious, where he remained unconscious for some minutes while you attempted to avoid responsibility for your actions by taking to your heels.

‘‘The victim hit the back of his head on the footpath; it was simply good luck rather than good management that the injuries were not worse, or even fatal.’’

Judge Turner convicted Tarbotton and sentenced him to six months’ supervision to allow intervention for his alcohol issues, and four months’ community detention to be served at a Fernhill property, including a curfew beginning on February 5.

He must carry out 100 hours’ community work, and pay the victim $500 reparation for emotional harm.