Soldier avoids jail for breaking pubgoer's jaw with single punch

The Playhouse pub in Colchester, one of JD Wetherspoon's many venues in the area

The attack happened outside The Playhouse pub in Colchester - Credit: Google

A soldier has avoided going straight to jail for breaking a pubgoer's jaw with a single punch.

Private Harry Dring appeared for sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday morning.

The 20-year-old airman punched Karim Rafas in the face outside The Playhouse pub, in St John's Street, Colchester, at about 9.45pm on November 4 last year.

Mr Rafas required corrective surgery, lost two teeth, and was left with small scarring as a result of the attack.

The court heard how Mr Rafas had been drinking with friends since 5pm on the night of the incident.

Prosecutor Peter Clark said there had been "no significant interaction" between the two parties until Mr Rafas went to leave. 

He said Mr Rafas turned upon hearing someone say words to the effect of "come here" and was immediately punched in the face.

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Mr Rafas said the attack had left him feeling anxious about going out into town in the evening.

Dring, a soldier with the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, from Blunden Road, Farnborough, admitted wounding without intent to cause grievous bodily harm at an earlier hearing on July 13.

Barry Gilbert, mitigating, said: "On the face of it, it looks like a gratuitous punch. It isn't.

"The reasonable conclusion is that something had to have happened for Private Dring to punch the complainant."

Judge David Pugh said there was no indication that Mr Rafas had threatened Dring, adding: "Whatever occurred – and there was a suggestion of the victim ridiculing what the defendant was wearing – there is absolutely no justification.

Mr Gilbert said: "It's really just to set the record straight – even though there's no excuse.

"It was one punch, pretty much done out of anger."

Mr Gilbert said Dring was a somewhat immature young man, who had reacted stupidly and regretted causing the injury.

He said Dring had been "hit very hard" by the breakdown of a relationship in the lead up to Christmas, and that it was no coincidence the soldier was also convicted of drink-driving in January.

Judge David Pugh said the attack was short-lived and spontaneous, but completely unprovoked.

He said it was clear from army references that Dring's attitude had since improved.

He handed him a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 180 hours of unpaid work and 35 days of rehabilitation activity.

He ordered Dring to pay Mr Rafas £1,000 in compensation.

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