Footballer handed community order after admitting nightclub belt attack

Crystal Palace captain Jason Puncheon has been ordered to do more than 200 hours of community service after using his belt to lash out at a group outside a nightclub, and telling a bouncer he could afford to buy a house with the clothing item.

Puncheon was seen to twice strike out with his belt in the melee, and challenged police to arrest him, Staines Magistrates' Court heard.

The 31-year-old had been due to stand trial on Monday but changed his plea at the last minute, admitting a public order offence after his behaviour outside Mishiko nightclub in Surrey on December

He had been out with his footballer friend Ben Chorley, who plays for National League side Bromley FC, and their wives.

Chorley himself ended up in the dock after Puncheon was sentenced, having taken a photograph and short clip during the hearing.

The 35-year-old father-of-two was fined £1,000 for a contempt of court offence.

Puncheon was handed a community order and told to pay compensation after the December incident.

Earlier the court heard the two couples had enjoyed dinner before moving on to the nightclub.

Puncheon said it had been a pleasant evening until another man interrupted him and his wife while they were dancing.

He said the man, unknown to him, had put his arm around him and when asked not to do so began insulting him.

Speaking from the witness stand, Puncheon, who said he had been drinking that evening, said the man told him: "You're f****** shit. That's why Roy (Hodgson) doesn't play you."

He added: "He also said to me that that would be a good story for The Sun."

After leaving the nightclub and going to their chauffeur-driven car, Puncheon, who the court heard was wearing a three-quarter length herringbone jacket, said another woman attempted to strike his wife as he ushered her into the vehicle.

He stated that his friend, Chorley, who the court heard had given police the name Steven Cotter, was punched by someone else during the incident in Church Street.

Asked how he felt after he claimed to see someone attempt to strike his wife he said: "Really concerned for my safety to be honest, because of the build-up of everything that had happened.

"The moment that somebody leaned over to hit my wife and hit my friend I think it spiralled out of control."

Prosecutor Craig Warsama told the court that after the incident outside the club Puncheon was "irate".

Ben Chorley and Jason Puncheon
Ben Chorley and Jason Puncheon

"He was shouting: 'Arrest me, arrest me' in what was described as an aggressive tone," Mr Warsama said.

When a bouncer who had confiscated the belt then tried to return it to Puncheon, the prosecutor said: "Mr Puncheon's reply was 'Keep it, keep it. Buy it. Buy a house with it.'"

He made no comment to police when he was interviewed, the court heard.

Mr Puncheon was acting in self-defence, his lawyer Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC said, but this argument was dismissed by District Judge Michael Snow.

He said: "It's quite clear to me that he had completely lost control of his behaviour at that time. And he was striking indiscriminately at that group."

The judge added: "The CCTV is clear and unarguable. No-one viewing that CCTV I'm afraid could come to a different conclusion.

"He was not acting in self-defence or in the defence of another (when he used the belt)."

Puncheon, of The Warren in Kingswood, Surrey, wore a black suit, black shirt and black trainers as he stood in the dock and admitted a section 4 public order offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or provoke unlawful violence.

Ms Bennett-Jenkins QC described her client, who has three children with his wife and also looks after her child from a previous relationship, as a family man.

She said the incident was an "utterly isolated matter" and noted that he did work in the community already, including in South Norwood where he is from.

Puncheon was handed a community order, requiring him to carry out 210 hours of unpaid work, and was told to pay £250 compensation to bouncer bouncer Paul Mendy, who he struck out at with his belt.

He was also ordered to pay £930 towards prosecution costs and an £85 Government surcharge.

A Crystal Palace Football Club spokesman said: "This was a regrettable incident and entirely out of character. The matter will be dealt with internally."

A further charge of assault by beating was dropped after no evidence was offered by the prosecution.

The court heard Puncheon has a previous conviction for assaulting a police officer in 2004, for which he received a 12-month conditional discharge, and driving offences including no insurance and no licence four years later.