A MAN has walked free from court after knocking a man unconscious, leaving him with a fractured skull, when he stepped in to defend his friend.

Dexter Creighton had been out drinking with friends in Darlington town centre just before Christmas when a drunken man started trouble with one of the group.

CCTV footage shown to Teesside Crown Court showed Creighton punch an RAF serviceman before kicking him in the head – leaving his victim knocked out and needing emergency treatment from paramedics.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said the victim was walking along Skinnergate throwing chips at people in the moments leading up to the violent confrontation outside Voodoo Lounge.

He said: “The victim punched one man and Dexter Creighton reacted and punched the victim to the ground. The CCTV footage has recorded what took place when the victim was assaulted and members of the public saw it.

“There was a female there who knew Dexter Creighton and heard him kick the victim the floor and he fell like a dead weight. She said it was a horrible sound – like a block of wood hitting stone.”

He added the victim was placed in an induced coma for several days after suffering a bleed to the brain and a fractured skull as a result of the assault.

The RAF serviceman has managed to return to work following intensive treatment but due to the nature of his head injuries he is still unable to drive, the court heard.

In a victim personal statement, he said the injuries he had suffered had hindered his career plans in the RAF and meant that he had been forced to stop playing football for the air force.

A statement from his mother highlighted the impact the assault had on the family adding that she was relieved that her son had recovered from his significant injuries.

Ian Mullarkey, mitigating, said his client had acted in self defence but accepted that his reaction had been excessive.

He added that Creighton, of Gouldsmith Gardens, Darlington, had the offer of well-paid work as a rigger in Germany and urged Judge Howard Crowson not to jail him.

The judge said he watched the CCTV footage several times and believed that it showed that the victim had been the original aggressor in the incident but added that Creighton had over reacted to the situation and had gone over the mark for self defence.

He also agreed the 27-year-old's reaction to the punch was excessive.

He said: “I’m dealing with a situation where you were responding to an attack and you misjudged your response.”

Creighton, who pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm, was given a 16 months sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £1,000 compensation.”