A SAILOR was spared jail for an assault after the navy stepped in to defend him.
The judge said he was prepared to take the exceptional course, despite Ian Cole fracturing his victim David Field’s eye socket and cheekbone in the attack outside Emma’s nightclub in Gosport.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard the married father-of-four was an outstanding sailor.
Chief Petty Officer Paul Armstrong gave evidence on behalf of the 32-year-old, who is based at HMS Sultan in Gosport.
He said the commanding officer of HMS Sultan Commodore Mark Slawson backed Cole.
‘My understanding is that if he gets a suspended or a custodial sentence it’s very likely that he will be discharged,’ he said.
‘He is an outstanding individual.
‘For the commodore to come to my office and pass on his best wishes speaks volumes about how highly he is regarded.’
Cole, a Leading Physical Training Instructor, ran up from behind Mr Field, who is also a Gosport-based sailor, and punched him to the head, catching him off-guard and knocking him to the ground.
The 32-year-old was taken to hospital and has been left with permanent nerve damage.
Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer said there had been a row inside the club between the two men’s groups of friends earlier in the night.
Police, who were in the area, arrested Cole near the scene.
Stephen Clayton, defending, said: ‘This offence was a one-off moment of madness.
‘He’s not only an excellent sailor but someone who day-in, day-out represents as an outstanding human being.
‘His commanding officer holds him in high esteem.
‘He is described as totally dedicated and dependable.’
He added: ‘If trouble should arise he will be one of the first put out to defend this country.
‘The navy wants to keep him; he is regarded as an exceptional sailor who has far to go.’
Cole, of Greyshott Avenue, Fareham, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm following the attack last June.
Recorder Stephen Lennard said: ‘I’m prepared to take an exceptional course and I do so, because not only of the support and loyalty you have shown to all your family but because of the enormous consequences that would flow from that single punch.’
Cole was told to do 250 hours of community service and pay £500 in compensation to his victim.