A FORMER soldier escaped a prison sentence for his part in a town centre brawl in which one of the participants suffered a skull fracture.

Colin Neil Richardson, who was said to have fought valiantly against Argentinian paratroopers during the Falklands War, threw a punch which floored a man outside a takeaway restaurant in Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland, on New Year’s Day.

Durham Crown Court heard the victim fell backwards and struck the back of his head on the pavement, knocking him unconscious.

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He came round in hospital and received treatment for a compound fracture to the back of his skull plus a bloodied and grazed face.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said it has affected the 57-year-old victim’s sense of smell, taste and hearing.

Although his recollection was unclear, he told police the violence was sparked by a row in a takeaway.

Mr Towers said there were four participants in the confrontation, but Richardson was responsible for the fateful blow.

The defendant voluntarily attended Bishop Auckland Police Station the following day, while another man involved also handed himself in and received a caution.

Richardson,  told police he had been drinking all day and could not recall what caused the argument.

Richardson, 53, of Woodhouse Close, Bishop Auckland, admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm.

John Turner, mitigating, said Richardson willingly handed himself in and “entirely accepts” the prosecution account of events.

Mr Turner said Richardson gave 19-years’ Army service and only retired on medical grounds.

He said it included tours in Northern Ireland and with the Scots Guards during the Falklands War in which he fought in the decisive Battle of Tumbledown.

Richardson received a six-month sentence, suspended for a year and was ordered to perform 150 hours’ unpaid work.