AN agricultural contractor has been ordered to pay £1,800 compensation to a former schoolmate who he punched in a jealous rage during a night out.

Exeter Crown Court heard that Sam Nicholls left victim Nathan Walter with a fractured jaw, which was so painful he passed out when he tried to brush his teeth the next day.

Miss Janice Eagles, prosecuting, said Nicholls, his former partner and Mr Walter were all guests at a birthday party for a friend and had gone together on a bus to the Fever club in Barnstaple in March.

She said Nicholls’s ex partner had ended their two and a half year relationship two months earlier but he was keen to get back together.

Miss Eagles said: ‘She said “no”. He wanted to sit next to her on the bus but she said she wanted to sit with her girl friends. He continued pestering her throughout the evening but she made it clear she did not want to be talking to him.

‘When she was speaking to other people in the club she got the impression he was reacting in a jealous way. She saw the start of the assault but the victim does not know what happened.

‘She said she was talking to Mr Walter and the defendant appeared out of nowhere with both arms in the air and fists clenched. She said she was then pushed over in mayhem.’

The court heard the victim did not go to hospital on the night, but later needed surgery to repair his jaw with plates and screws.

Nicholls sent an apology by Facebook straight away which said: ‘I don’t know what came over me.

‘I was just drunk. It was not personal. I’m struggling to let her go, I’m sorry.’

Nicholls, of Lovistone Barton, Merton, admitted causing grievous bodily harm and was jailed for eight months, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £1,800 compensation and £350 costs by Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: ‘You assaulted a man who was with your former girlfriend in what I see as a jealous rage after you have been drinking. You punched him in the face and caused a serious injury which no doubt has had a substantial effect on his life.

‘You are a young man of previous good character. You are hard working and I sentence you on the basis that what you did that night was entirely out of character.

‘Your remorse is entirely genuine and you are ashamed of what you did. That is evident from the fact you sent a Facebook message of apology even before the police were involved. You are highly unlikely ever to come before the criminal courts again.’

Mr Richard Crabb, defending, said the offence was completely out of character and Nicholls had regretted it immediately.

He said: ‘There have been no further problems. He has no previous convictions, it was a single blow and he has shown real remorse.

‘He is working very hard from dawn to dusk seven days a week. As an agricultural contractor you never know when you will be needed.’