HE FOUGHT the Nazis during the Second World War and still takes part in the Royal British Legion's annual poppy appeal.

But Bernie Beckett has been refused compensation following an accident which occurred after contractors were given six months to repair a broken pavement.

During that time they were guaranteed immunity from any claims lodged by people injured in falls.

Mr Beckett, 96, was walking in Southampton city centre when he tripped and suffered serious facial injuries which kept him in hospital for six hours.

The city council knew repairs were needed and had already arranged for the work to be carried out.

But the size of the "non-urgent" repair meant contractors Balfour Beatty had up to six months to do the job, during which they and the council were immune from any compensation claims.

The accident happened outside Starbucks in Above Bar Street on January 17.

Mr Beckett's daughter, Alison Hunt, said: "My father hit his head on the pavement, causing a black eye and a deep cut above his eyebrow.

"He hurt both knees, which are still giving him pain, and his jacket was covered in blood."

Mr Beckett, of Westwood Road, Southampton, obtained a compensation form from the council. He claimed £8.50 for his daughter's hospital parking, plus an unspecified sum for new shoes, a new jacket and the pain and inconvenience he suffered.

Mrs Hunt received a reply saying the defect was spotted during an inspection carried out on December 20 last year.

She said: "As they already knew about the defect, I'm devastated they didn't cordon off the area to stop pedestrians falling over.

"I think it's disgusting they're not liable for any accidents and are therefore refusing to pay out any compensation.

"They did repair the pavement soon after my father was injured. Even though he's 96 he lives independently and is very active. His age played no part in the fall whatsoever.

"After the accident he lost confidence and wouldn't leave his flat for about eight weeks."

Mr Beckett served in the Royal Navy during the war and spent three weeks in hospital after his ship, HMS Batory, was attacked by a German U-boat. He still helps the Royal British Legion sell poppies every autumn.

Jonathan White, legal director of National Accident Helpline, said: “Local authorities have a legal duty to maintain pavements and take reasonable steps to repair defects.

“The fact the defect had been identified almost a month before Mr Beckett’s accident, but not repaired quickly enough to prevent it, means in our view there is definitely a case to answer."

A city council spokesman added: "Unfortunately it's not always possible for us to repair faults immediately.

"Southampton City Council's highways policy allows up to six months in which to carry out non-urgent repairs although we will try, if possible, to repair within two months.

"This follows standard operating procedure across the country."