A CHARD street-drinker repeatedly struck a vulnerable man in the head until people thought they had died, a court has heard.

David Gary Butcher, 32, formerly of Chard, spent more than five months in Exeter Prison before the standing in the dock at Taunton Crown Court last week.

Butcher went before Recorder Richard Shepherd after brutally attacking Wayne Brewer over four cans of lager and some prescription medication in Chard town centre.

The judge said: “On June 22 last year, you began drinking outside a supermarket in the morning with various friends.

“By 6pm you were drunk. There seems to have been some confusion over ownership of a Sainsbury’s bag.

“Mr Brewer took the bag. You pursued him and confronted him. You struck him five or six times in the head and face.

“Your punches caused Mr Brewer to fall into shuttering and he was knocked out. Passers by thought he was dead.

“He required stitches to his head and lip. Fortunately, his injuries were not more serious than that.”

The court heard that, although Mr Butcher didn’t target his victim, he knew the victim was in a vulnerable state.

“He had in your own words been ‘popping Valium like Smarties’ that afternoon,” Mr Shepherd added.

“You deliberately caused more harm than was necessary if this was simply to get your bag back.”

The probation officer said Butcher had a history of alcohol abuse and cocaine use, although his illegal drug taking stopped in 2017.

She added: “For six months he was consuming alcohol on a daily basis. This spiralled out of control.

“He heard the victim impact statement and he feels bad.

“He knows he went over the top in committing the assault.”

Butcher also had a difficult childhood and his father was violent, although they have a good relationship now.

Patrick Mason, mitigating, said: “Although he has a number of offences, it is relatively few given the problems he has and the lifestyle he became embroiled in last year.

“Butcher has a good working record despite the demons he has been battling with. He used a four-letter expletive to describe his childhood to me.”

Mr Shepherd imposed a community order, and said: “You have served the equivalent of 11 months in custody.

“We are looking at a starting prison sentence of 14 months, reduced by two months for the guilty plea.

“By me imposing a suspended sentence, it is toothless because you would be released on time already served.”

Butcher must carry out 15 alcohol rehabilitation days, and 19 thinking skills sessions.

The order is for 12 months.