A MAN suffered a fractured skull when he was hit over the head with a metal crutch after a funeral wake descended into violence following a row about potatoes.

Malcolm Horsley became embroiled in the row in the Gillen Arms pub in Hartlepool after his wife remonstrated with funeral goers for behaving inappropriately when they were laughing and messing about.

Fearing he was going to be attacked during the confrontation, the 59-year-old whacked an innocent man over the head leaving him with a laceration on his scalp and a fractured skull.

Teesside Crown court heard how Horsley, who walks with the aid of a stick, lashed out on Saturday, July 7 in 2018 when the row erupted.

Philip Morley, prosecuting, said: "The victim and his friend told the defendant to calm down and it was then that the defendant raised his crutch and struck the victim to the top of his head.

"He makes a second lunge towards the friends although this time there was no direct contact."

Police arrived at the scene Horsley told them 'I just hit him with my f***ing stick'. He said he had done this as he was fearful of being attacked and just wanted to get away.

Horsely, of Gleneagles Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm.

Paul Newcombe, mitigating, called on the judge to pass a suspended sentence as his client was suffering health problems from a violent assault he himself had suffered.

Judge Peter Armstrong accepted that the defendant had genuine concern for his own safety following the devastating impact of the assault that he had suffered years beforehand.

He said: "On this particular night, you hadn't gone looking for trouble, it simply occurred in unusual circumstances.

"The funeral party had some potatoes with it, by mistake or some other reason, they were given to someone else in the pub, someone in the funeral party didn't agree and there was an argument.

"The funeral party were asked to leave, a group of young ladies were approached by your wife who thought it was inappropriate that they were laughing.

"You got yourself involved in it and as far as the victim is concerned, he didn't do anything to provoke the attack.

"You struck him once, a single blow, and you have expressed remorse and you have no relevant previous convictions.

"Striking someone in the pub with a crutch used as a weapon is a very serious matter."

Horsley was given an eight-month sentence suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to carry out 12 rehabilitation activity requirement days and was given an electronically monitored curfew for three months between 10pm and 7am.