A drunk business owner who punched another man while he was sat in the back of a taxi before dragging him onto the pavement and kicking him twice has avoided a jail sentence.

Lewis Heatley needed 16 stitches, was left with scars on his head, and was required to undergo plastic surgery on his lip after smashing his face on glass as he was hauled out of the vehicle by 35-year-old Ashley Riley in the early hours of December 1 2019.

Preston Crown Court heard how Mr Heatley had been drinking with friends in the White Bull in Rossendale on the night of November 30, before they decided to leave in a taxi and go to another pub.

Prosecuting, Peter Barr said: "Ashley Riley had been drinking in the same pub as Mr Heatley. The men had known each other for about eight years but only to say hello to, and they weren't friends.

"A taxi was called and Mr Heatley and his friends entered the vehicle as it pulled up outside.

"CCTV from inside the taxi shows someone, who we know from CCTV outside the pub, to be the defendant, opening the taxi door and punching Mr Heatley.

"He is then pulled to the ground and hits his face on smashed glass on the floor.

"The glass is from a pint glass which Riley was holding as he approached the taxi.

"The glass goes into his face and he is then kicked twice as he lies on the ground - once very clearly and a second time, which doesn't appear to connect."

Mr Barr said Mr Heatley was taken to hospital with multiple lacerations to his face. He also lost two fillings from his mouth.

Mr Barr continued: "The effect of this incident has devastated Mr Heatley's life and has had a huge psychological impact on him.

"When he was released from hospital a few days later he could not look at himself in the mirror and was unable to work for eight weeks, suffering constant headaches and pain when he ate food.

"He has been left scarred for life and says if it wasn't for the support of his family he could not have gotten through what he describes as 'the worst period of my life'."

Riley accepted he punched Mr Heatley but told police he only expected him to suffer a black eye.

Defending Riley, of Whitehead Street, Rossendale, Daniel Travers said his life was now focused on his work and looking after a business, which he stepped-up to take control of during the pandemic, and for which his father and brother both work.

Mr Travers said: "He is from a hard working family, who are all here to support him in the courtroom today."

Taking more than 30 minutes to consider his decision, Judge Preston handed Riley, who had pleaded guilty to section 20 assault, a suspended sentence.

He said: "For no discernible purpose and without provocation, you attacked Mr Heatley by punching him as he sat in the back of a taxi minding his own business.

"You intended to do that as you approached the taxi and opened the door.

"You attacked him because you had an earlier conversation with him over his treatment of some young person in the pub; you may not have meant to cause serious harm but you did.

"You are a hard working man and have an awful lot of people you are responsible for, and you have been anxious and depressed since your arrest, which is understandable but attracts no sympathy from this court as your actions are what caused that."

Riley was handed eight months suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and was placed on electronic curfew for three months between the hours of 9pm and 4am.

He was also ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation to Lewis Heatley.