The imprisoned footballer Joey Barton escaped an immediate further jail sentence yesterday after he admitted beating a team-mate senseless in a training session in May last year. He was given a four-month jail term, suspended for two years.
The midfielder, 25, of Widnes, had originally denied assaulting his former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo, who was knocked unconscious and needed hospital treatment for head trauma, an inflamed eye and bruised eyelids.
But Barton, who was sold to Newcastle United in June last year, changed his plea before the trial opened at Manchester Crown Court, after the judge hinted that doing so would spare him a second prison term. He is currently serving a six-month sentence for a separate assault.
Merseyside Police released CCTV footage of the incident that initially saw him jailed, having previously withheld it to avoid prejudicing the Dabo trial. Taken in Liverpool at about 5.30am on 27 December last year, Barton is shown punching a man about 20 times before attacking a 16-year-old boy, Jordan Spencer, and breaking his teeth.
In May this year, Barton was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for assault causing actual bodily harm and was told to pay £2,500 compensation to Mr Spencer. Barton's cousin, Nadine Wilson, 27, and his brother, Andrew Barton, 20, were also jailed for their part in the affray. Yesterday, Newcastle United indicated that the footballer, who becomes eligible in the next few days for early release, would not be sackedbut faced a talking-to from club bosses. "We'll be sitting down and talking about his future," said his agent Willie McKay. "He will be aiming to be back for pre-season training next week."
The former Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin, who witnessed the Dabo beating, has been ordered to attend court after failing to give evidence in the case. Distin, 30, now at Portsmouth, was told in May he would be required in court this week to give evidence. At the weekend, he told police he was in Greece on holiday.