A SOCIAL media spat over lager escalated into an organised brawl on a Fordingbridge roundabout in which a cage fighter was hit with a golf club.
Victim Caidan Emsley suffered a fractured jaw when he squared off against father-to-be Luke Self, Southampton Crown Court heard.
It was told how Mr Elmsley gained the upper hand before he was hit with a golf club and then “kicked and punched”.
The violence was sparked by an exchange earlier that afternoon when Self, of Elm Crescent, Hythe, and two of his friends – who were drinking – posted a picture of a non-alcoholic pint on Facebook.
A subsequent exchange between Self and Mr Emsley, involving the merits of Foster’s lager, descended into threats.
By 11pm Self and his two friends had got someone to drive them to Fordingbridge for the fight, which was seen by neighbours in overlooking flats.
Judge Richard Onslow said it was clear from the evidence Mr Emsley quickly “got the better” of Self, before the victim was hit from behind with a golf club.
Witnesses described how Mr Emsley adopted a “defensive” position as he was then punched and kicked by “at least two people”.
When police arrived at the scene they found the victim, who had staggered a short distance away, conscious “but not making much sense”, the judge added.
The court heard Mr Emsley changed his mind after initially supporting the prosecution. He had provided a victim statement detailing how he would have to give up cage fighting because of the injuries he suffered, including a fractured jaw and swollen right eye.
Self and the other two men were charged over the attack, which they denied. At a trial, Self was found guilty by a jury of one count of grievous bodily harm.
Defending 25-year-old Self, barrister Tom Hoarder pleaded with the judge to spare his client an immediate prison term.
Self’s girlfriend was pregnant with their first child, due in March, he revealed, adding she was “absolutely furious” with him.
The defendant worked for his father’s car recovery business, handling the paperwork and advertising side. Because of the firm’s reliance on its promotion online, if Self went to prison its very existence would be threatened, Mr Hoarder claimed.
Acknowledging it was an “unacceptable incident”, Mr Hoarder said it “quickly went beyond what Self had envisaged at the outset”, and Self had been “egged on”.
Mr Hoarder pointed out Self was the only one of the trio not to have previous convictions, and it was “utterly out of character”.
Handing down sentence, Judge Onslow said he could not be sure Self was the person who wielded the golf club. But he noted that in police interview Self had denied any involvement whatsoever, which he branded “stupid lies”.
However, the judge said ultimately he was “just persuaded” to suspended Self’s two-year prison term for the same period.
He ordered the defendant to do 30 days of rehabilitation, 150 hours of unpaid work in the community and to pay Mr Emsley £1,000 compensation.
Judge Onslow warned him to comply with the order and reserved any breaches to himself. He told the defendant: “Put a foot wrong in the next two years and you will be straight inside.”