A MAN was told he “nearly killed somebody” by a judge after he punched another man to the floor with a single blow – but he has avoided a prison sentence.

Joshua Morris “squared up” to Ryan Williamson and punched him in the face for no apparent reason in the early hours of July 21, 2018, in Gordon Road, Wimborne.

Mr Williamson had been walking home with his girlfriend having spent the evening at the Rising Sun pub, where Morris had also been.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard there had been no issues between the two men that night but Morris, aged 20 at the time, launched the “unprovoked blow” on Mr Williamson.

The victim fell back and cracked his head on the road or pavement after being punched.

Mr Williamson suffered a fractured skull, with a deep laceration to his scalp, while the defendant fled the scene. The victim has been left to deal with lasting consequences, including problems with his some of his senses.

Morris, now aged 22, appeared in the dock on September 2 for sentencing more than two years after the incident, having previously admitted a single charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Mr Williamson and his girlfriend, who were praised by Judge Stephen Climie, were in court to see the defendant be issued with a three-year community order.

The judge cited the “exceptional” circumstances with the delay in Morris being charged and the sentencing guidance due to the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for this punishment.

Mr Climie told Morris: “You nearly killed somebody that night.

“We collectively in the court system have seen many a single punch result in death and usually when someone falls back and cracks their head on a road or pavement.

“Fortunately for you, and fortunately for the rest of us, we still have Mr Williamson with us, otherwise there would have been no alternative to immediate custody.”

Statements submitted by people who know the defendant said the incident was “completely out of character”, but Mr Climie said “we will find out” over the course of the community order.

He added: “This was an unprovoked drunken blow that happens from time to time when people’s minds aren’t straight.”

Prosecuting Timothy Bradbury told the court Morris had been identified by Mr Williamson’s girlfriend after the incident and he was arrested by police on July 22, 2018.

In his first interview the defendant gave no comment while in his second interview he accepted being present but claimed he was acting in self-defence. The court heard this stance was no longer maintained by Morris.

The judge said this was never a case of self defence, adding: “Not in a million years was it that type of case.”

Mitigating Victoria Hill said Morris had a “deep regret for his actions that night” and he would have to live with knowing the impact he has caused Mr Williamson.

The defendant was linked to the crime as his phone was identified as being in the area at the time of the incident.

Morris, of Derwent Close, Ferndown, was handed a three-year community order whereby he must follow an overnight curfew to be at his home address between 7pm and 7am for six months and carry out 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirement with the probation service. He was also ordered to pay £1,500 compensation and the appropriate victim surcharge.

Before ordering Morris to leave the dock, Mr Climie warned the defendant: “Don’t test me.”