A MAN who fractured another man’s eye socket with a single punch was told he had avoided jail “by a whisker”.

Burly six-footer Thomas Perry, 22, seriously injured victim Mark Cousins when he punched him in a Southend nightclub.

Passing sentence, Recorder Elroy Claxton told him the punch could have been lethal.

However, the judge said he was imposing a suspended prison sentence because the incident had been out of character for Perry, who was described as a hard-working plumber.

Perry admitted causing grievous bodily harm when he appeared before Basildon Crown Court. He was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

The court was shown CCTV footage of the attack, in Chameleon nightclub, in Lucy Road, including the punch and Mr Cousins falling back and hitting a pillar.

He ended up with a fractured right eye socket and a broken nose.

The court heard Perry, formerly of Rochford Road, Southend, but now of Runwell Road, Wickford, was going out with Mr Cousins’s former partner.

Samantha Lowther, prosecuting, said: “When the police officer arrived, he could see Mr Cousins’ nose bent from right to left. His right eye was bloodshot and there were cuts to his right eyebrow.”

Mr Cousins was also complaining of double vision after the attack, on November 9 last year and despite surgery, had suffered permanent damage to his senses of taste and smell.

Immediately after the incident, Perry had made his way to Southend police station to hand himself in, the court heard.

Perry’s lawyer, Nick Bonehill, said prior to the attack, his client had had an impeccable record.

He had left school with 11 good GCSEs and was considered one of Southend’s top plumbers by his employer.

The offence had cost Perry his job, since he could not continue there with a criminal record.

Mr Bonehill added: “This is very much against the way Mr Perry conducts his life. There had clearly been some issues between these individuals.

“This isn’t a case of pre-meditation.

This was an argument that escalated very quickly.

“He was never meaning to cause anything like the kind of injuries he did.”

As well as the suspended sentence, Perry was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, and pay Mr Cousins £2,000 in compensation, plus a £100 victim surcharge and undisclosed court costs The judge added: “Your character references show you are level-headed and a hard worker.

“However, looking at your size, you must realise – and if you don’t, you must know now – a punch from you is lethal.

“I can’t ignore the injuries.

“I know you will live to regret this. There was no excuse to behave in the way you did on that day.

“You’ve come within a whisker of going away because of these injuries and from what I saw in the film, but from what I have read about you, I have decided not to sent you to prison.”