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PLAYER WHO HIT RIVAL IS SPARED JAIL; Opponent fouled man in Mersey game.

Byline: CHLOE GRIFFITHS

A FOOTBALLER who broke an opponent's cheek in a "rush of blood" was spared prison.

Patrick Simpson required surgery to lift up his cheek bone and eye socket after being punched by Robert Hand, 24.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Hand had run across the pitch and delivered the vicious blow after Mr Simpson tackled one of his team mates and then kicked him on the ground during a match in Birkdale.

Judge Graham Morrow QC told Hand: "The court must send out the message that unlawful violence will not be tolerated on the sports field and that must be done by imposing sentences of imprisonment."

But he decided to suspend the 16-week jail sentence for 12 months after hearing of the "exceptional" circumstances to the case and Hand's mitigation.

Ordering Hand to do 175 hours unpaid work and subjecting him to a four-week curfew Judge Morrow said it was clear he had only reacted after Mr Simpson had illegally tacked his teammate.

Ian Davies, prosecuting, told how it was close to the end of the first half of the game between Birkdale United FC and Walton-le-Dale FC on October 16, last year, when violence erupted.

He told how Birkdale player Mr Simpson illegally tackled Walton-le-Dale player Shannon Hoole. online Log on to echo.co.uk for news, sport The referee was about to hand out a yellow card but before he did Mr Simpson kicked Mr Hoole on the ground.

Mr Davies said: "The referee decided to send Patrick Simpson off but before he could do so the referee saw the defendant ran across his line of vision towards Mr Simpson and punch him."

The referee sent both players off but following the game Mr Simpson, who had not even seen Hand deliver the blow, went to Southport hospital.

liverpool the latest more He was diagnosed with fractures to his left cheekbone, left eye socket and jaw which required surgery.

In a victim impact statement the college student told how he had to wait two weeks for surgery leaving him in pain and causing him to miss studying and lose ear nings.

Mr Simpson also said he had been left self-conscious.

Hand, of Higher Walton Road, Higher Walton, Preston, admitted causing grievous bodily harm.

Andrew Ford, defending, said Hand, who has a good work record as a production operative, had only reacted because of Mr Simpson's actions, adding: "Maybe what happened is called rough justice, rather than true justice."

Mr Ford added: "He is profoundly sorry for what he has done."

Hand was ordered to pay Mr Simpson pounds 1,500 in compensation and pounds 535 costs.

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PUNCH: Robert Hand at Liverpool Crown Court
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2011
Words:449
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