A MAN bit off the top of his friend’s finger after a “barbaric” fight over cigarette papers broke out in a pub.

Andrew O’Callaghan, 43, of Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent to Robert Govier on June 14, 2019, on the basis it was excessive self-defence.

He appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentencing.

Bournemouth Echo: Andrew O'Callaghan of Holdenhurst Road

Prosecuting, Anthony Waller told the court Mr Govier and the defendant were friends through their work in construction.

On June 14, the victim had finished work and was drinking in the Lion’s Head pub in Holdenhurst Road and saw O’Callaghan with two others.

Mr Waller said: “There was banter going on between Mr Govier and the defendant. Mr Govier would give him banter about his Irish accent, the defendant would give it back.

“At 8pm Mr Govier said things turned to madness, he himself being unable to explain how the mood changed.

“A fight broke out between him and the defendant and the defendant bit off the end of his right, ring finger.

“The bite has removed nail and flesh off the top of the finger, exposing bone.”

Mr Waller said the fight broke out when O’Callaghan asked for a cigarette from Mr Govier but couldn’t find the papers.

The court heard how they called each other a “blind ****”, and O’Callaghan claimed he was punched first.

Mr Govier had his arms around the neck of O’Callaghan when he bit his finger, the victim required plastic surgery and lost roughly £2 an hour from his rate as a bricklayer due to being slower as a result of the injury.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Govier said: “The injury had a huge impact on how I work. The staff have done a very good job at repairing the damage, what won’t repair are the nerve endings.”

Mr Govier said he is often in pain and finds it hard to play with his children because he has to be careful.

He added: “This barbaric action shocked me to how this friendship turned so wrong.”

Mitigating, Robert Grey said there were no previous convictions of relevance to this case and said there was a “significant degree of provocation”.

Mr Grey said CCTV footage, which was not shown in court, showed Mr Govier throwing the first punch.

He said the offence could reasonably be punished with a suspended sentence.

Judge Brian Forster QC sentenced O’Callaghan to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

He said: “The other person played an active part in what took place but however it started, whatever he did, whether he punched you first or not, that can not be any real justification or excuse for you, during the course of the fight, to then bite the end of his finger, that was a barbaric thing to do.

“The victim has made a comparatively good recovery from that injury. I don’t for one moment overlook the impact it has had on his actual work.

“I do suspend the sentence for a period of 18 months, you can be adequately punished in the community.

“Please go careful and don’t come back before the court again.”

O’Callaghan was also made the subject of a curfew between 8pm and 6am, four nights a week, ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work, pay £1,500 in compensation and to carry out 15 rehabilitation requirement days.