A SOLDIER suffered a fractured skull after he was attacked by a gang in Burnley whilst on leave from the army.

Scott Condron, 20, who serves with the Royal Signals Regiment, was punched in the face by drunken Luke Thompson before the gang repeatedly kicked him.

Signaller Condron suffered a fracture to his temple as well as cuts and vomited repeatedly after he was taken to hospital, Burnley Crown Court heard.

But a judge decided not to jail Thompson, 18, who pleaded guilty to inflicting grevious bodily harm, for the appalling attack' saying it was time for him to turn his life around.

The defendant, of Carlton Road, Burnley, was given 36 weeks in custody, suspended for two years, with 18 months supervision and the Think First programme.

After the case Mr Condron's fiancee, Corporal Lucy Swift, who also serves with the Royal Signals and had been with him when the attack occurred, condemned the sentence.

She said that the injuries he suffered could have ended his army career and he has already been prevented from returning to his base in Elm, Germany, as he is not allowed to fly until next month.

David Macro, prosecuting, said Thompson pleaded guilty on the basis he kicked the victim once after a row. It may have landed on his head, but he thought it was Mr Condron's body.

Others also kicked the victim whilst he was on the floor. The defendant claimed responsibility for the victim's injuries, but said he did not start the fight.

The prosecutor said Mr Condron had been out with his fiancee Lucy Swift and friends and at about 1.30am, Miss Swift and her cousin left the Coal Clough pub to go home.

Mr Condron and his friend simply asked the girls if they were alright and without warning the victim was hit, a fight started and he fell to the floor. The defendant was said to have kicked him in the head on the ground.

Mr Macro said another of the defendant's group then also booted him, one shouted Mr Condron had had enough and the gang ran off. The victim remembered nothing of the assault until he awoke in hospital with blurred vision and cuts.

The court was told Mr Condron suffered a linear fracture, which self healed. Thompson was arrested on June 4 and denied being present.

Philip Holden, defending, said Thompson did not start the incident. He had shown remorse, was lightly convicted and was on a brick laying course.

Judge Beverley Lunt said anybody involved in street fighting with kicking should expect prison and added it was appalling Mr Condron was home for rest and relaxation and was the victim of such an assault.

But she said he was working and the authorities prevailed upon judges to impose an alternative if a sentence of 12 months or less could be passed.

Judge Lunt said Thompson had had too much to drink and added the number of drink fuelled offences by otherwise responsible young men was becoming frightening. She added it was now the time to turn his life around.

Miss Swift, who has been going out with Scott for 18 months, said: "I'm not happy at all because the people who beat him up were my friends - they're not anymore.

""I was just talking to them and I introduced Scott when he asked if I was okay.

"When he turned round it all kicked off and I've no idea why.

"Scott could have ended up losing his job - it was just horrible.

"We were waiting ages in the hospital before he even got checked out even though he was full of blood.

"He was going to go back to Germany but the doctor won't let him fly because he fractured his skull. He also broke his nose in two places."

Mr Condron, who is currently guarding Buckingham Palace, said: "It wasn't just one lad - there were four of them. I'd never seen them before in my life.

"They fractured my skull and my eyelid got ripped open.

"I've got a scar on the side of my nose now."