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A judge has told a Queenstown electrician he is lucky to not be in prison 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 St bar at 3am on July 18 last year.
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 shortly caught on foot by police.
The victim was taken to Lakes District Hospital, where he received stitches for a 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 had earlier admitted a charge of injuring with intent to injure, was told by Judge Michael Turner in the Queenstown District Court on Monday the victim could have died, and he would be facing prison for manslaughter.
At a hearing before Judge Russell Walker last October, counsel Tanya Surrey said it was a case of a "night out gone wrong" for the defendant, who had no previous convictions.
He accepted he was at fault for the way he had 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, Ms Surrey said.
He now realised with "the crystal-clear vision of hindsight" alcohol was not the way to deal with grief, she said.
However, Judge Walker said the defendant had been granted diversion for a similar incident about two years earlier.
After last year’s incident, he initially told police he was acting in self-defence.
"This was a cowardly and unprovoked attack on a person completely taken by surprise by your punch," the judge said.
"The victim had absolutely no chance to defend himself, and fell to the ground unconscious, where he remained ... 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.
Tarbotton must carry out 100 hours’ community work, and pay the victim $500 reparation for emotional harm.