A NIGHT out in Whitehaven ended violently as a furious man in a taxi queue attacked a stranger who he believed had racially abused him.

Julian Savage, 52, first knocked out his victim with a headbutt and then, as the man lay unconscious and helpless on the ground, he stamped on his upper chest and twice punched him in the face.

One witness said the defendant acted out of "pure rage". The defendant, a qualified gas engineer, of Copeland Avenue, Whitehaven, denied the original charge of wounding.

Prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to an assault causing actual bodily harm. At Carlisle Crown Court, prosecutor Gerard Rogerson outlined the facts.

Savage and his partner were waiting in a long but orderly taxi queue in Duke Street at around 11.10pm on June 13. As they waited, the victim approached Savage's partner and there was a "friendly exchange," said Mr Rogerson. 

"Mrs Savage appeared to be behaving in a cheeky and affectionate manner - you can see several hugs on the CCTV and [the victim] is intoxicated, staggering a little on his feet."

The man then made gestures towards Savage, and it was after one of these that the defendant attacked him.

"He headbutted [the victim] squarely in the face, causing him to fall heavily backwards, striking his head on the pavement," said Mr Rogerson.

"He was rendered unconscious.

"Mr Savage then stepped forward and brought his foot down in the area of [the victim's] neck and upper chest once.

"He followed that up by issuing two punches to the head area [of the victim] as he lay on the ground on his back, apparently unconscious."

Nearby police officers immediately reacted. Though he ran away and struggled free of the police, Savage was arrested after being tasered.

The victim, who lost a tooth in the attack, refused to support the prosecution.

Savage later admitted the offence on the basis that was provoked by being "racially abused" by the victim.

A witness said the sound of the victim's head hitting the ground was loud, adding that Savage stamped on the victim "with force". 

The woman said: "He had pure rage in him and he wasn't afraid of what he'd done. I was scared to look at [the victim's] face.. It was a terrible incident to witness and I would say that it's the worst thing I have witnessed."

Mr Rogerson rejected the defendant's claim that the victim racially abused Savage, describing his behaviour that night as "tomfoolery."

Peter Cruickshank, defending, said the defendant's partner was clearly telling the victim to go away. "Mr Savage perceived he was racially abused," said the barrister.

"But he recognises he did wrong and he apologises for doing so." He described Savage as a family man whose references spoke of him in "glowing terms."

Judge Richard Archer accepted there was "an element of provocation" before the assault but Savage's decision to continue the attack as his victim lay unconscious was not recklessness.

"It demonstrates that you were continuing to be overpowered by the rage which caused you to act in a way, which I accept was out of character," said the judge.

The judge said some victims knocked to the in such incidents die and the attacker at the very least face a manslaughter charge.

But given the defendant's lack of previous offending and the "provocation", the sentence could be suspended.

Savage was given a 19 week jail term suspended for 18 months. He must do 100 hours of unpaid work in the community.