A MAN with a criminal past has been spared an immediate jail sentence over an assault outside a pub – after a judge accepted it was an "aberration".

Lee Smith, of Marian Road, Haydock had pleaded guilty to GBH after he had pushed over a man outside the Wheatsheaf pub on Westfield Street, St Helens.

The assault took place at about 3am on August 3 last year after Smith, 38, had been drinking for around 13 hours and consumed 20 pints of cider, the court heard.

CCTV footage of the assault on victim Bryan Rigby was played in court, which saw him fall against a Mitsubishi car and bang his head.

Prosecuting, Mike Stephenson, said Mr Rigby arrived at the pub at around 6pm.

He said: "He [Mr Rigby – the victim] was aware at some stage in the evening of a group of four males who had come in".

Mr Stephenson added that Mr Rigby heard a discussion over "some football issue" and noticed a "man with a Scottish accent was wearing glasses, which he was": "There's an acceptance that this (assault) may have been a case of mistaken identity".

There had been no previous interaction between Smith and the victim, the court was told.

At 3am Mr Rigby was outside the pub and "was aware of someone approaching from his left, he just had time to catch a glimpse of the man who put both hands on his left shoulder and pushed him hard.

The effects of that was he fell against the vehicle and then to the ground and banged his head.

"He may have lost consciousness; he has a memory of the man stood over him and heard the words: 'oh s**t'. That's what gave him the impression he [Mr Smith] wasn't the man he intended to attack."

The 38-year-old victim was taken to hospital and had broken the neck of his right femur (thigh bone) and has been "left with a permanent limp". He has needed painkillers and sleeping tablets.

Mr Stephenson added: "He says the quality of his life will never be the same" and that it is "likely his injuries will require a hip replacement".

The court was told Smith had 40 previous convictions for 79 offences, nine of which were for assaults, the most recent in 2014 for common assault and ABH for which he received a 26-month prison sentence.

Defending, Bernice Campbell read out a letter Smith had written ahead of the sentencing hearing.

It said: "'Dear judge, I'm here in front of you because I have made a massive mistake which I am very sorry for. I don't want to make any excuses and I know I was wrong'."

The letter added that Smith, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, had turned his life around since 2014.

It said he has carried out lots of charity work, including for the NSPCC, Alder Hey Children's Hospital and Macmillan and was asked to switch on the Christmas lights in Haydock. He also runs a group in the community aiming to tackle knife crime.

Ms Campbell added Smith said "he would like to pay compensation" to his victim and "he's very sorry for causing injury".

She asked for suspended sentence to be passed and said the reason Smith was at the pub was that a charity event he organised for the NSPCC did not take place due to Covid.

Passing sentence, judge Recorder Ian Unsworth QC said this was, "in many respects a very unusual case".

He said: "Sadly the court has too much experience of dealing with people who sometimes die due to such incidents. Equally at times, victims can get themselves off the floor.

"In your case fortunately the victim didn't suffer a fatal injury but it wasn't an insignificant injury.

"It is clear from the outset that you regretted your actions. It's quite clear that the incident from last August was an aberration. I am just persuaded in this case to suspend the sentence."

Smith was given a 16-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, 40 days of rehabilitation activity, made to do 100 hours of unpaid work and given an alcohol abstinence monitoring requirement for 90 days.