A BUILDING site foreman landed a punch on his site engineer, breaking his jaw and sending him falling back into a trench.

But Wesley Bates avoided an immediate jail spell, with a judge yesterday sentencing him to nine months imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

In July last year, the 40-year-old was managing a multi-million pound building project in Chippenham – and struggling with the pain of a prolapsed disc.

Swindon Crown Court heard he had not meant to fracture site engineer Matthew Kirby’s jaw when he punched him in the face on July 17.

Earlier that day, Bates’ construction worker son had been working on pipes at the building site when another man used heavy equipment to lift the pipes.

Bates was concerned the man did not have the necessary licences to operate the machinery and his actions had threatened to endanger his son’s life. Angry, he told the worker he planned to inform management.

Later, Bates saw the worker and Mr Kirby talking, with the former apparently joking about the fact his foreman might fire him.

Prosecuting, Simon Goodman said there had earlier been a discussion between Bates and Mr Kirby, “effectively a professional matter about what should happen”. Bates was said to have been aggressive, facing up to the worker.

“Mr Bates returned, described as storming back and shouting into Mr Kirby’s face,” said Mr Goodman.

Bates accused Mr Kirby of talking about him behind his back. Mr Goodman added: “Mr Kirby remembers little else other than waking up in the ditch.”

Another witness claimed to have seen Bates punch the worker in the face, sending him falling through safety fencing and into a service trench.

Mr Kirby went first to Great Western Hospital then to the John Radcliffe in Oxford to get treatment for his fractured jaw. The incident had left him anxious and struggling to eat.

Bates, of Tunnel Hill, Worcester, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm. The dad-of-two has previous convictions for violence dating back to the 1990s.

Defending, Omar Majid said: “Mr Bates is horrified about the prospect of being sent to prison. He is very disappointed with himself about the position he has put his family in.”

Judge Peter Crabtree sentenced Bates to nine months imprisonment suspended for 18 months. He must complete 20 rehabilitation days and abide by an eight-week curfew. Bates was also ordered to pay Mr Kirby £400 compensation.