A “quiet and peaceful” 29-year-old Llandovery school bus driver has admitted committing actual bodily harm following “extreme and despicable provocation”.
Robert Mark Watkin, of 35 Bro Dawel, punched Jonathan Morgan at the Greyhound pub on October 19 while holding the shattered remnants of a vodka glass, Llanelli magistrates were told.
Mr Morgan suffered required three stitches to an injury to his eyebrow along with a number of superficial cuts to his face following the blow.
Ellie Morgan, prosecuting, told the court that a witness saw Mr Morgan approach Watkin, who had drunk “four or five pints of lager and four or five vodkas”, and make numerous comments relating to his dead father.
The court was told that Watkin had discovered his father’s body following his suicide at the family home in 2004.
The witness described Mr Morgan asking Watkin: “How’s your father?” and “Is you father still hanging around?”
Ms Morgan said: “These comments were 100 percent said to provoke a response.
“The witness described how Mr Morgan was ‘calling [Watkin] out’. The witness said that Watkin tried to get away, but Mr Morgan followed him outside and asked: “Is your father happy where he is?”
“The comment was made quietly so others would not hear, but the witness did hear it.”
The witness also reported seeing Mr Morgan shove Watkin.
“The provocation and comments were a deliberate attempt to upset Watkin,” said Ms Morgan.
“It was all designed to get a response and he did respond.”
The court was told how Watkin, who had been holding a vodka glass at the time, crushed the glass in his fist before punching Mr Morgan once in the face.
Magistrates were told how a group of men with Mr Morgan then set upon Watkin and “gave him a hiding”.
Police found Watkin hiding in a nearby car park.
When interviewed, Watkin told the officers: “I’m sorry. I don’t like fighting.”
Hywel Davies, defending, told magistrates they faced “an extremely difficult sentencing exercise”.
“What Mr Morgan said was utterly despicable,” said Mr Davies.
“This was a quiet young man – not a violent man – who was provoked to this extent.
“He was honest with the police and it is only because of the honesty that he has had to plead guilty to this charge rather than putting forward a defence of self-defence.
“He was roughed up by the friends of Mr Morgan – to be frank they gave him a hiding.
“When the police found him he was not hiding from the police, he was hiding from Mr Morgan’s friends.”
Mr Davies said Watkin’s guilty plea had also guaranteed he would lose his job as a school bus driver under local authority rules relating to criminal convictions.
Probation officer Tim Jenkins, after interviewing Watkin, urged magistrates to stray from their guidelines, which could have seen a jail sentence imposed.
“He is an extremely low risk of re-offending,” said Mr Jenkins. “He is deeply sorry for what he did and is relieved that he did not cause the victim any serious injury.”
Magistrates told Watkin: “We are not going to follow our guidelines as we would normally have done in such a matter because of the extreme provocation you faced.”
Watkin was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay a £60 legal surcharge but magistrates refused to impose any bill for court costs.
They also refused to impose any compensation order.