Athlete jailed for assault

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A TOP athlete who smashed in the photographer’s front teeth at a wedding reception was rumbled by his victim as he was in some of the pictures, a court heard.

Welder Mark Smith, one of the top 20 triathletes in his age group in the country, launched an unprovoked attack on David Sharman at the Buffs club in Walton Street, Colne. The victim had intervened after seeing the defendant lunging towards his then partner, but was headbutted in the mouth for his troubles, Burnley Crown Court was told.

Smith was said to have left Mr Sharman with two fractured teeth and also knocked out two fillings in the incident, which was captured on CCTV. After the assault, the victim had trouble eating, lost half a stone, his confidence was shattered and he had to struggle for a long time with a splint in his mouth.

The hearing was told that ironically, Smith had himself been the victim of a vicious assault about five years ago - when all his front teeth had been knocked out.

The defendant (30), of Gordon Street, Colne, had admitted assault causing actual bodily harm last November and had been committed for sentence by magistrates. He was jailed for six months.

Sentencing Smith, Judge Graham Knowles said his behaviour was totally out of character, but Mr Sharman had been completely blameless. He added: “This was a wholly unwarranted, disgraceful attack, in which you used your head as a weapon.” The defendant had no previous convictions.

Mr Kevin Donnelly (prosecuting) said Mr Sharman, a close friend of the bride and groom, had been singing on the karaoke when he became aware of a disturbance around the bar. He saw a man lunging towards a woman, went over and asked Smith what he had done that for. He was then butted in the mouth.

Mr Sharman fell immediately to the floor, was in pain and the defendant walked out of the club. The victim, shocked and dazed, went home and the following day went to an emergency dental centre.

Mr Donnelly said two teeth had been fractured near the tip of the roots, two fillings had been dislodged and three teeth were loose. The victim was given temporary fillings and fitted with a bridge. He later saw his own dentist, had been told the loose teeth might not recover, may have to be extracted and he could need a partial denture.

Smith, who had appeared on a number of the wedding photos, was contacted by police and went voluntarily to Burnley police station in December. He was interviewed under caution and said he could not remember the incident. He told officers he had been out running, had had alcohol on an empty stomach and just snapped and boiled over. He apologised.

For Smith, Mr Dylan Bradshaw said his behaviour had been quite disgraceful and the case had been a salutory lesson. Smith had been the victim of an unprovoked and vicious assault and had had to have dental work. Two men had appeared in court over it in October, 2006.

The solicitor said: “If any defendant knows the potential effect of this type of behaviour, it would be Mark Smith.”

Mr Bradshaw added Smith, who had a degree, would lose his job if he was sent to custody. He said the defendant was a national standard triathlete. The solicitor added: “The argument with his estranged partner was about the amount of time he was spending in the gym and out running.”