AN aspiring motorcycle racer had to have part of his skull removed after he was set upon by a group of men who stamped on his head and spat at him during seemingly unprovoked attack.

The two men responsible for inflicting life-changing injuries on Mitchell Gibbons, leaving him fighting for his life and in intensive care for several weeks, walked free from court after receiving 180 hours of unpaid work each.

Victim Mr Gibbons said his dreams and aspirations had been "shattered" following the assault, in which he was knocked-out before being stamped on a spat at by Blackburn men Uzair Bhatti and Mohammed Aseeb Ali, who had been out celebrating a friend’s birthday.

Prosecuting the case at Preston Crown Court, Hunter Grey said Mr Gibbons had been with friends in Church Street, Preston, when they were approached by a group of young Asian men who proceeded to pick a fight with them.

The court heard how the reason for the assault "wasn’t entirely clear" – with witnesses stating Mr Gibbons and his group had been "minding their own business" when they were set-upon.

Another witness said the two men appeared to have been "looking for a fight" – with Mr Gibbons seen on CCTV trying to defuse the situation.

Mr Grey said: “The group said they did not want a fight.

"In response, a male punched Mr Gibbons on the right-hand side of his jaw. He was then punched to the side of his head causing him to fall to the ground.”

Footage of the event showed Ali, 23, of Cornelian Street, Blackburn, was responsible for issuing the punch before Bhatti, 31, of Calder Banks, Blackburn, then approached him and stamped on his head and spat on him.

They were in the company of two other men at the time.

They then ran away from the scene and got into a white Volkswagen Golf, which was driven by a third defendant, Dhanyal Hussain.

He was found guilty of assisting an offender following a trial, while Bhatti and Ali admitted causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Gibbons.

The victim was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit and found to have a fractured temple and injuries to his brain.

He then had to undergo surgery to remove a part of his skull in a bid to alleviate pressure which had been building as a result of his injuries.

He later had further surgery to reinsert the crania, before he was transferred to the neurological rehabilitation unit.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Gibbons, then 20, said prior to the attack he had been a "fit and healthy, happy-go-lucky person with lots of patience and a zest for life".

He added: “Before the assault I had a good social life. Now it seems my trust in people has been totally diminished.

“In my own mind I am scared that the people who assaulted me will come to finish off the job.”

He went on to say he was a keen motorcyclist with ambitions of competing in the Isle of Man TT – something taken away from him when he learned he would no longer be able to drive as a result of the side-effects, including seizures, resulting from his injuries.

In mitigation for Bhatti it was heard that he had shown "significant remorse" for his actions and had no previous convictions.

His defence barrister added: “He is completely at a loss to explain why he behaved the way he did and is thoroughly ashamed of himself.”

The court heard how Ali was accepting of the fact his behaviour on that evening was "wholly unacceptable" and he was "very much ashamed" of what had taken place.

His barrister Timothy Jacobs added: “His involvement really is a single punch.

"It was a hard punch, a significant punch, and one that caused significant damage, but the CCTV footage goes on to show he did not involve himself any further.”

He too had no previous convictions and was said to be a hard-working man from a "well-respected, law-abiding family" with hopes of completing his university degree.

Making the decision not to send the men to jail, Judge Richard Archer said: “Mr Bhatti and Mr Ali, you are the two principle offenders of grievous bodily harm.

"This was a joint enterprise – that is to say you are each accepting of your responsibility for the entirety of the attack and the injuries caused.

“Many young men have lost their lives on the streets of Preston and up and down the country when they are knocked to the floor as the result of one single, but forceful, blow.

“It is merciful that Mr Gibbons is not another of those young men.”

Judge Archer went on to say it must have been "galling" for Mr Gibbons to hear how the men have prospered since the offence, in that that have shown themselves to be useful members of society and have held down jobs.  

He added there was a "realistic prospect of rehabilitation" in both cases and said their personal mitigation was strong.

Judge Archer concluded he was satisfied neither men were a risk to the public and voiced concerns that sending them both to prison could lead to them having no jobs upon their release or having been "influenced by more criminality" while in prison.

They were both handed two year prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, and must carry-out 180 hours of unpaid work each. Bhatti must undertake 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days while Ali must do 10.

Hussain, for his involvement and for a further drug offence, was jailed for two years, suspended for two years. He must carry-out 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 240 hours of unpaid work.

A fourth man, Ronju Miah also appeared alongside the men in the dock for his involvement in drug offences with Hussain.

You can read more about those in a separate report.