By Court Reporter 30/03 Updated: 02/04 09:41
A SUNDAY league footballer who punched an opponent and broke his jaw has walked free from court - despite having a previous conviction for another on-pitch assault.
Steven Oldham had denied inflicting grievous bodily harm on Craig Scott during the game at Clifton park in April last year.
But a jury at Warwick Crown Court took just 55 minutes to find the Webb Ellis FC player guilty by unanimous verdict.
The 31-year-old was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months and was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.
Oldham, of Potton Close, Coventry, will also have to pay Mr Scott £4,800 compensation at £200 a month.
Prosecutor Scott Coughtrie said the incident took place with about 20 minutes left in the Rugby and District Sunday League game between Webb Ellis FC and the Barley Mow team.
Oldham was late into a tackle for a 50-50 ball with Barley Mow defender Mr Scott, and they both went to the ground.
The two players started arguing as they got to their feet, and Mr Scott pushed Oldham to the face with his open palm.
That was seen by the referee who sent Mr Scott off, and Oldham was given a yellow card for the late tackle and was substituted five minutes later.
Mr Coughtrie said: "It is at this stage he approached Mr Scott, who was on the side line, and came from his blind side and punched him once to the left side of his face, fracturing his jaw in two places."
Oldham then fled as he was chased by other Barley Mow players and took refuge with his own team mates.
Mr Scott was taken to hospital where he had to undergo an operation in which metal plates were secured to his jaw to repair his injury. The plates will remain there permanently.
Oldham claimed in court that on the pitch he had put his hands up to acknowledge he had mistimed his tackle and accused Mr Scott of punching him rather than pushing him with an open hand.
He claimed when he was substituted he had been making his way to where his team’s supporters were standing and walked over to Mr Scott, who was sitting on the ground near them.
Oldham told the court he acted in self defence and said: "He stood up. I put my hand out to shake his hand to say ‘fair enough, a heat of the moment thing,’ but he lunged towards me and caught me in the same area as before.
"I feared for myself. I swung my right arm, catching him, but not knowing the damage caused until afterwards."
But the jury quickly rejected his story, and the court heard Oldham had two previous convictions for assault, including one during another football match in 2007.
Judge Richard Griffith Jones told Oldham he was close to being jailed before giving him a suspended sentence.
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