A DRUNK and topless man knocked a police sergeant unconscious after punching him from behind in a "cowardly attack" in central Southampton.

Robert Mann struck unsuspecting police sergeant Nick Tucker in the side of the head during an attack on Above Bar Street.

The blow sent the police sergeant crashing to the floor where he temporarily lost conciousness.

The father-of-three, who had been a public servant for than 30 years, suffered fractures to his jaw and cheek in the attack.

He was forced to have surgery at Southampton General Hospital, where metal plates where inserted into his face in order to fix the fractures.

Today, at Southampton Crown Court, his attacker, Mann, 26, from Totton, was jailed for two-and-half years.

The court heard that Mann was out in Southampton on June 23 – the day of the Cricket World Cup match between Afghanistan and India, which was played at the Ageas Bowl.

Prosecutor Mark Ashley said Mann was out in Above Bar Street with his brother and would later tell police he had been drinking "excessively".

The court heard around midnight a fight broke out in the street near to Yates bar and the pair became involved.

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(The incident happened in the street near to Yates in Above Bar Street)

Sergeant Tucker, who was on his own at the time, attended the incident and began speaking to Mann's brother.

Mr Ashley said: "From behind (Robert Mann) delivered one punch to the right side of the officer's face.

"It caused him to fall to the ground and he momentarily lost conciousness."

Mr Ashley said both men ran from the scene.

He said Sergeant Tucker suffered a three part fracture to his cheek, which required the insertion of titanium plates to repair, as well as a fracture his jaw.

In a victim impact statement, read out in court, Sergeant Tucker said: "I've been a public servant for over 30 years and I come from a long line of public servants who have dedicated their lives to protecting the public.

"I'm expected to put myself in harm's way to protect the public, but I do not expect to be seriously assaulted by the very people I was trying to protect.

"It left me in the most pain I have ever experienced in my life. It felt like my face had exploded."

Sergeant Tucker said the injuries had impacted on both him and his family, including his 13-year-old daughter who he said had burst into tears on seeing the extensive bruising to his face.

Mitigating for Mann, Richard Onslow told the court Mann had been "excessively drinking" at the time and not intended to cause serious injury to Sergeant Tucker.

He said: "He became upset that his brother appeared to be being arrested for being involved in a fight that he had not started.

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"Instead of remonstrating peacefully, he took the steps that would lead to these awful consequences."

Mr Onslow said Mann, who pleaded guilty to one count of causing grievous bodily harm without intent, was "utterly remorseful" for his actions.

Sentencing Mann, of Coriander Drive, in Totton, to 30 months in prison, recorder James Newton-Price QC said: "You punched Sergeant Tucker to the right side of the face.

"You attacked from behind without warning and at speed.

"It was described by a doorman who witnessed the incident as a very cowardly attack.

"It was, in my judgement, entirely unprovoked. It should have been obvious to you that this was a police officer trying to do his duty."