A JUDGE yesterday criticised Britain's binge-drinking culture as he jailed a reveller who killed a man with a single punch.

Andrew Pearson, 23, suffered a fractured skull and swelling to his brain when his head hit the ground after the punch by Thomas Coyle.

The incident happened after a night out in Stanley, County Durham, in October last year.

Coyle, who was convicted of manslaughter by a jury, was jailed indefinitely yesterday, and told he must spend two years and two days behind bars before he can apply for parole.

During the hearing, Judge John Milford said: "The courts must factor into sentence the need to deter gratuitous violence in city centres or outside pubs and clubs, which causes them to seem menacing and dangerous places to be to the law-abiding public. This case would never have been if drink had never been taken. It has shattered this family.

"Stanley is a relatively small town, but I am sure, sadly, this kind of thing happens nationwide. That is no reason to tolerate it.

"I hope the concerns I have expressed will reach the police and the appropriate authorities."

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Coyle and Mr Pearson, who knew each other, came to blows after a night out in Stanley on October 22.

Coyle originally said he had pushed Mr Pearson, which caused him to fall to the ground, but on the day his manslaughter trial started, he admitted the fall was the result of a punch.

Coyle, who prosecutors said had been involved in a similar incident where he knocked a man out with a single punch less than 48 hours earlier, denied manslaughter, and said he hit Mr Pearson in self-defence.

But the 23-year-old, of Mary Street, Stanley, was convicted after a trial.

The court heard yesterday how Mr Pearson's mother, Joan Thompson, has been admitted to hospital because she is unable to cope with what happened to her son.

In a statement after the hearing, his stepfather, Fred Thompson, said: "We hope Thomas Coyle, who was a friend of Andrew, has this on his conscience for the rest of his life.

"We feel the sentence is not long enough and we will never get over the loss of Andrew.

"When Coyle gets out, he will be able to see his family, but we will never see Andrew again."

Judge Milford said: "Mr Pearson was a much-loved son, brother and uncle who was greatly respected by his workmates."

David Callan, in mitigation, said: "What happened was an improbable misfortune."