A WORKMAN on a building site left a teenage apprentice unconscious and with a broken jaw after a row over a scratched work van.

Paul Aldridge punched 19-year-old Sam Hibbins to the floor after accusing him of damaging his vehicle with a bucket.

The trainee carpenter suffered a double fracture to his jaw which required the insertion of plates and screws, and had his mouth wired shut for four weeks.

Aldridge, of Mably Grove, Wantage, admitted causing grievous bodily harm on the day his case was due to go to trial and was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on Friday.

The 31-year-old, who is a floor layer for Buckingham Flooring, clashed with Mr Hibbins on February 17.

Tony McGeorge, prosecuting, said: “According to Sam he was clearing up in preparation for the defendant to do some work as a floor layer.

“The defendant accused him of damaging his van by scratching it with a bucket. Sam insisted he hadn’t but went to have a look.

“He produced the bucket but the defendant accused him of using a different bucket and insisted Sam had caused the damage.

“He said if that was the case he would be happy to pay for it.

“As he stood up from examining a scratch the next thing he remembers is coming round in the van.

“He was in a lot of pain and the defendant was taking him to hospital.”

Clare Evans, defending, said of her client: “He maintains that this was an incident that was isolated.

“As they began to argue the toss about whether Mr Hibbins did or did not cause the damage Mr Aldridge rather expected Mr Hibbins to say ‘all right, I did’. He said he rather lost the ability to know what to do.”

Miss Evans said Mr Hibbins was “effing and blinding” and refusing to pay for any damage.

Judge Tom Corrie said he viewed the defendant’s account “with a healthy dose of scepticism” and added: “There was no excuse at all for this grotesque over-reaction.”

Miss Evans said Aldridge, who has a previous criminal record for domestic abuse, had not had much sleep the night before the attack and his partner had recently lost a baby at 38 weeks.

Judge Corrie gave him a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years, with 12 months’ supervision, 150 hours’ unpaid work and order to pay £500 costs and £500 compensation.

As Aldridge left the dock, a member of Mr Hibbins’ family told him: “You got off light there, didn’t you? Got off very light.”