A TOTTON man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after punching a police officer in the face so hard he was warned to be careful how often he laughs.
Robert Mann (26), of Coriander Drive, was slammed for the “cowardly” one-punch attack from behind on Sgt Nicholas Tucker as he was sent down at Southampton Crown Court.
“You punched him hard, with very great force to the right side of the head and attacked him from behind and without warning, at speed,” Judge James Newton-Price said. “One of the doorman described it as a very cowardly assault.”
The single punch caused the officer, who has served in the force for 23 years, three “significant” fractures to his cheekbone and eye socket, injuries which required surgery.
Describing the moment after the punch, Sgt Tucker said: “It felt like my head had exploded.”
He still requires physiotherapy, cannot open his jaw fully and has been advised not to yawn or laugh often, the court heard.
So bad were the injuries that the officer temporarily lost his hearing and sense of balance. He returned to work only two weeks ago in a desk job.
Prosecutor Mark Ashley told the court that police were alerted to reports of men fighting just after midnight on 23rd June in Above Bar Street in the city.
Sgt Tucker was the first and only officer on the scene and pulled aside Callum Mann – the defendant’s brother – to talk to as he was understood to have been involved.
Afterwards Robert Mann attacked him from behind without warning, punching him once to the right side of his head.
Mann tried to flee the scene with his brother but was restrained by door staff, the court heard.
Sgt Tucker was knocked unconscious for a brief moment and had to be rushed to Southampton General Hospital, Mr Ashley continued.
Sgt Tucker later had to be cared for at home by his wife. He could barely sleep and was not allowed to do anything that could affect his facial movements.
The prosecutor showed the court photos of Sgt Tucker’s injuries. He also showed images captured on Sgt Tucker’s body-worn camera of Mann, who was bare chested moments before he struck the officer.
Mr Ashley explained Sgt Tucker had given 30 years of public service, seven in the military and 23 with the police.
He read Sgt Tucker’s emotional victim statement to the court in which the officer said: “The injuries I sustained have been significant and have greatly affected me and my day-to-day life.”
His 13-year-old daughter had wept when she saw his face, he said, and she had since pleaded with him not to go back to work.
“I did not become a public servant to be rich or famous but to provide the highest level of service to those in need,” Sgt Tucker added. “I should not be assaulted by one of the very people I was trying to look after.”
Mr Ashley pointed out that although Mann had no previous convictions, he had a number of cautions, including one for assaulting a police officer.
Mann appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to committing grievous bodily harm without intent.
Defending, Richard Onslow stressed his client had not intended for the injuries to happen and that it was a single punch that occurred after Mann drank excessively.
He explained there had been a Cricket World Cup match between Afghanistan and India at the city’s Ageas Bowl cricket ground on the day. A large number of people were out drinking that night, and a fight had kicked off that did not involve either of the Mann brothers.
However, they had got caught up in it, and when Sgt Tucker began talking to Callum Mann his brother had got upset he could be in trouble for something he had not started.
“Instead of seeking to remonstrate peacefully he took the steps that have led to these awful consequences,” Mr Onslow said.
He highlighted his client, who lives with his parents, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and was “extremely and genuinely remorseful”.
In an interview with probation Mann had described his actions as “vile” and “disgusting”, the court was told.
Mann had since stopped drinking, sought help and was “very nervous” about custody, Mr Onslow said. The barrister mentioned the possibility of suspending a prison sentence although he accepted custody was most likely inevitable.
He handed to the judge a raft of positive references on Mann from his friends, family and colleagues. “He is well thought of amongst those who know him,” Mr Onslow added.
Jailing Mann, Judge Newton-Price noted Sgt Tucker’s statement, saying: “He said ‘I felt like my head had exploded and I lost my sense of taste, hearing and sense of balance’.”
As he was led away to the cells, Mann turned and said “bye” to members of his family in the public gallery. One of them replied: “Love you.”