Lee Wilkinson, South Shields Man Who Bit Off Love Rival's Finger At Nativity Play, Is Jailed For 11 Months

25/01/2013 14:52 GMT | Updated 27/03/2013 09:12 GMT

A father who bit off part of a love rival's finger at a children's nativity play has been sentenced to 11 months in jail.

Lee Wilkinson, 40, fought with Michael Dent at Harton Primary School, South Shields, in December 2011 during which he bit off the tip of Mr Dent's left little finger.

The court heard that the pair had been involved in a long-running feud after Mr Dent had an affair with Wilkinson's wife while he was working away.

Bridie Smurtwaite, prosecuting, said: "They both attended the school, with Mr Dent arriving in the queue behind the defendant.

"When they saw each other, words were exchanged and Mr Dent suggested they go outside to have a fight.

"A scuffle broke out and during the fight Mr Dent put his hand in the defendant's mouth. The defendant then bit hard on the finger. Mr Dent forcibly pulled his hand away and the injury then occurred."

Passing sentence Judge Simon Hickey said he was unable to suspend sentence because of the nature of the offence.

He said: "I can't suspend the sentence, it must be immediate, although I am very conscious that it will impact on your life and your children.

"That is the least I can impose given my duty and what the public must view as a very serious offence."

But he did reduce the amount of time Wilkinson will serve in prison due to his pleas, his character references and his work ethic.

Tom Moran, defending, said that Wilkinson had retrained as an offshore worker after he had been attacked working as a taxi driver.

"He wanted to be able to support his wife and three young children and he was working away providing for his family on one such occasion when his wife started a relationship with Mr Dent," he said.

"The relationship became serious and the defendant separated from his wife. That gave rise to a large amount of animosity and hostility."

He said Wilkinson did not know that Mr Dent was going to be at the school and just wanted to enjoy the play like the other parents who attended.

Wilkinson admitted wounding and a public order offence.

Newcastle Crown Court heard expert evidence which said the injury would have required severe force for the finger to be bitten off.

But Mr Moran said Wilkinson never intended to cause the injury.

"The invitation to fight came from Mr Dent and, once the gauntlet was thrown down, it was up to him to take a more mature approach, but he accepted," he said.

"Once they were into the scuffle he did not look for an opportunity to bite Mr Dent.

"There's also no suggestion that any of the children were subjected to watching it."

Judge Hickey accepted this and said he was not sentencing Wilkinson on the basis that he intended to inflict the injury.