A teenager who attacked an unarmed man with a knife during an altercation on a night out was told what he did was the “act of a coward” during his sentencing.

Spencer Howcroft, 18, slashed at his victim, David Collard, several times outside The Juniper - TJ’s - in Blackburn Road, Great Harwood, after Howcroft was spotted stealing Collard’s coat.

Howcroft, who was 17 at the time of the offence, caught Mr Collard in the neck, close to his right ear, and after being treated by paramedics and taken to hospital, he was placed into an induced coma.

Mr Collard has physically recovered from his injuries, but the court heard he still suffers from nightmares and flashbacks at random intervals.

Howcroft pleaded guilty to charges of assault causing grievous bodily harm and possession of a knife.

Preston Crown Court heard that on the evening of Saturday, November 12, 2022, Mr Collard and his partner were on a night out at TJ’s for a 40th birthday.

Last orders were called shortly before 2am and at that time, he and his partner went out to the smoking area, leaving their coats behind. When they returned, the coats were missing.

The landlord spotted them looking for their items and indicated he had seen somebody leaving who clearly had something stuffed underneath his clothing, but was told by them it was a jumper.

Outside, the landlord confronted the defendant and he initially denied the items had been stolen by him.

CCTV played in court showed Howcroft being tackled to the ground by a member of the public during the commotion outside.

As he lands of the floor, a knife falls out of his pocket. He picks it up and starts swinging with it.

The video showed Howcroft swinging at Mr Collard and on the second occasion, the victim can be clearly seen to slouch forward.

Further CCTV from inside the pub, to where Mr Collard had retreated, clearly showed blood coming from the back of his head.

Paramedics arrived shortly afterwards and Mr Collard underwent surgery to stop the bleeding to a cut artery.

He became nauseous and vomited, causing the wound to burst open again, at which point he was placed into an induced coma.

As well as damage to a cut nerve, Mr Collard suffered facial paralysis on his right side, which meant he could no longer close his right eye.

A statement on his behalf summarised in court said he had become self-conscious about his appearance and he only went out if absolutely necessary.

At a wedding he attended in May, he had to change seats because he was concerned about people being behind him.

It was also said that he normally travels to work on his motorbike, but could not do this as he could not get the helmet on due to the wound.

Howcroft, of Mercer Street, Great Harwood, gave a no comment interview.

Mitigating for Howcroft, Jon Close said his client had shown remorse and he has been forced to grow up quickly due to being in an adult prison.

He added: “The most significant mitigating factor is his age.

"He was 17 at the time of conviction so even though he is now 18, for the purpose of sentence he is sentenced as if he was 17.

“This will be his first experience of custody and it will no doubt be a salutary one.”

Passing sentence, Recorder Michael Maher said: “On November 13 last year, CCTV showed you stealing several jackets from a bar in Great Harwood in the early hours of the morning. You were heavily under the influence of drink and drugs.

“You walked behind Mr Collard and you lashed out at him. At that time you had a knife in your possession.

"It was not clear to me on that first occasion whether the blade had in fact penetrated his skin, but that was plainly your intention.

“When one of Mr Collard’s friends intervened and slammed you to the floor in defence, you dropped the knife and it is clear from the CCTV when you got back up and retrieved it, you were pumped up with anger.

"You were bouncing on your feet and you were slashing indiscriminately with that knife.

“You had your target locked even as he began to retreat back to the pub. Watching the CCTV in this case, I felt I could have been watching CCTV from a murder trial, and if Mr Collard had died, you would be facing a conviction for murder.

“Because of where you stabbed him his face was paralysed for some time. It was as though he had a stroke.

"He had difficulty speaking, eating food, and seeing out of one eye. He continues to suffer nightmares.

“I understand you were only 17 at the time. I have to sentence you as though you are 17-years-old.

“I accept you are sorry for what you did and you are sorry for the friends you associated with as you were trying to carve out new friendship groups having moved here from Australia.

“For someone who is barely an adult, pleading guilty to a section 18 offence takes a degree of courage.

"But taking a knife into a public place is the act of a coward. Attacking an unarmed man from behind is the act of a coward.”

Recorder Maher sentenced Howcroft to three years in prison.