A TALENTED rugby league player who fractured a club-goer’s jaw after one punch has walked free from court.
But former Wigan Warriors reserve Christopher Gerrard now has a nine-month jail sentence hanging over him for a year.
The attack by the 21-year-old, who now plays for Widnes Vikings, was captured on CCTV, was told by a judge at Liverpool Crown Court: “You took part in a disgraceful incident.”
The violent episode outside a club in King Street took place after an earlier altercation in the club’s toilets between Gerrard, the victim, Liam Scott, and their friends.
Judge Bryn Holloway told Gerrard and his companion, Michael Ashurst, that if they had admitted starting the incident they would have gone straight to jail but the prosecution accepted they may not have been the instigators.
In footage shown at court Gerrard is seen throwing one punch which struck Mr Scott on the side of his face and he fell striking the pavement.
Judge Holloway told the men, “It shows Ashurst initially aggressive, stripped to the waist and obviously very boisterous and threatening in manner.
“Gerrard became involved and delivered one blow, which caused the unpleasant injury. Thereafter you can been seen to make sure Ashurst does not get involved in any more trouble with people in the area.”
He said that normally such violence in public results in an immediate jail term but it was an unusual case and they were both “in most other respects perfectly decent members of society.”
As well as the suspended prison sentence the judge ordered Gerrard to carry out 250 hours unpaid work and to attend a New Directions Activity programme for 10 days.
He ordered Ashurst, also 21, to carry out 125 hours unpaid work and to attend the same community programme as Gerrard.
Gerrard, of Grenfell Close, Worsley Mesnes, had pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm to Mr Scott. Ashurst, 21, of Norfolk Street, Springfield, Wigan, admitted affray.
Defence barrister David Watson said that Gerrard, who has a previous conviction for affray when he was 15, has always accepted he was responsible for the serious injury and is remorseful.
He said: “He has been playing rugby league since he was six years old and has always shown total commitment. He has always had a clean disciplinary record on the field.”
Kevin Liston, defending Ashurst, who has a conviction for threatening behaviour, said he had made a terrible mistake in terms of his involvement. He is in employment and lives with his partner and her family but would lose his job if jailed.