He tried to bury the hatchet but instead three men were left lying unconscious on a pavement

A mass brawl broke out after a man confronted his childhood bully outside a Newton-le-Willows pub.

Michael Collins, 22, scuffled with his neighbour Aaron McBride, 24, after approaching him outside Stocks Tavern on the High Street on the night of September 24 2023. Collins had visited the pub with his friend Nicholas Hunter, 22, while McBride was accompanied by members of Earlestown Athletic JFC, including Benjamin Crowe, 25, and Russel Ward, 21.

Tempers flared around 10pm, when Collins spoke to McBride outside the pub and accused him of bullying him when they were in primary school. Collins was seen to offer a handshake to McBride, but McBride refused, and Collins later threw a punch at his alleged tormentor.

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Ward, Crowe, and Hunter also got involved, brawling with each other in the middle of the street.

At Liverpool Crown Court today, prosecutor Andrew McInnes said: "The two (Collins and McBride) begin a series of scuffles, both throwing punches at each other. Ward throws numerous punches and a kick at Hunter, as does another male. Hunter, at that point, fends off the blows and doesn't' retaliate. Ward then appears to be punching out at others.

"At one point both Collins and McBride are fighting on the floor. Other defendants and unknown males are present - some, including Hunter and Crowe, apparently trying to break matters up, while some join in in the violence. The two fall into the road, almost in front of a passing car."

Innocent passers-by were caught up in the fracas as Hunter delivered "heavy blows" to two men, knocking them both unconscious. Crowe pushed a woman, who was attempting to break up the fight, before exchanging punches with Hunter. Ward, meanwhile, continued hitting out at Hunter as another woman attempted to put herself between the pair, and punched him to the back of the head.

Mr McInnes said: "After a brief lull the fighting resumes... It appears Collins falls heavily and is kicked by at least one male and further blows from McBride can be seen. Diane Mason, the pub landlord, recalls seeing McBride kicking and stamping on Collins while he was apparently unconscious."

All five men pleaded guilty to affray.

Kyra Badman, defending Collins, a civil engineer with no previous convictions, said: "He threw the first punch, but probably came off the worst in this very unfortunate incident.

"He's 22 so youth is on his side, and he's a person of good character. This incident is entirely out of character. Clearly alcohol was involved that night to make him act out of character - that coupled with his lack of maturity."

Ken Heckle, defending McBride, who also has no previous convictions, said: "This defendant places no blame on anyone but himself. He's had difficulty coming to terms with it all, but there was not only a guilty plea, but admissions of his guilt in interview. Sadly this defendant did kick and was seen stamping on Collins. It's only fortunate that he did not receive any significant injuries. It got to the stage where the violence was really quite severe. That's not his normal behaviour. He can only explain that he wouldn't have acted that way if he hadn't been in drink."

He added that McBride had struggled with his mental health and drug use.

Olivia Beesley, defending Hunter, who also has no previous convictions, said: "Initially, Hunter is the one who is trying to keep the peace. There are punches thrown at him. He doesn't retaliate. Of course, this does change, and when it does change it changes drastically. This isn't lost on him. He's very scared of the impact his actions had that night.

"He shows significant remorse and shame over his actions that evening and it is my submission that this was out of character for him. This really is the only blemish, but a large blemish, on his life."

Paul Davidson, defending Ward, who has one previous conviction relating to excess alcohol, said: "Alcohol has featured very highly in this young man's life. I have no doubt that had he not drank alcohol that night he would not have behaved in the manner that he did. He's extremely remorseful and says he regrets every moment of what's happened. Violence, to him, is very much out of character."

Anna Duke, defending Crowe, who has no previous convictions, said her client was a "Tail End Charlie" who had not been involved in the whole fight. She said: "When two of his closest friends were knocked unconscious on the floor, he then lost his temper and became involved in this affray."

  • Michael Collins, of Common Road, Newton-le-Willows, was given an eight month suspended sentence, a rehabilitation requirement and 100 hours of unpaid work.

  • Aaron McBride, also of Common Road, Newton-le-Willows, was given a 12 month suspended sentence, a rehabilitation requirement and 100 hours of unpaid work.

  • Nicholas Hunter, of Morden Avenue, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Wigan, was given an eight month suspended sentence and 140 hours of unpaid work.

  • Russel Ward, of Redmayne Close, Newton-le-Willows, was given a 10 month suspended sentence, a rehabilitation requirement, 100 hours of unpaid work and a six-month alcohol programme.

  • Benjamin Crowe, of Whitecross Court, Newton-le-Willows, was given a nine month suspended sentence, a rehabilitation requirement and 120 hours of unpaid work.

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