Soldier spared prison after judge praises record

PUBLISHED: 19:25 15 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:10 17 June 2010

A SOLDIER from Newton Poppleford who was involved in a fight in Shrewsbury, escaped a prison sentence because of his excellent army references. Sergeant Neil Middleditch, of Exeter Road, was arrested on August 7 after an incident in which several men wer

A SOLDIER from Newton Poppleford who was involved in a fight in Shrewsbury, escaped a prison sentence because of his excellent army references.

Sergeant Neil Middleditch, of Exeter Road, was arrested on August 7 after an incident in which several men were involved in a brawl.

One man was knocked unconscious in the incident which happened in the early hours of the morning in Shrewsbury town centre.

Mr Middleditch, 38, an assault engineer working with explosives on the front line, was told by Judge Robin Onions: "If the army is deprived of your experience then other members of your unit could be in greater danger."

Mr Middleditch, who appeared at Shrewsbury Crown Court for sentencing on Tuesday, was ordered to carry out 125 hours unpaid community work and pay £192 costs after he admitted affray.

Two other men, Luke O'Brien, 19, of Middlegate, Shrewsbury, and Neil Pritchard, 35, of Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, who were involved in the fray, were also ordered to carry out community service and pay costs.

Mr Mark Linkins, prosecuting, said the fight began when Mr Pritchard got out of a taxi and punched one of the opposing group of men.

Mr Middleditch, whose tooth was loosened after Mr O'Brien punched him in the face, became involved in the fight when his brother was knocked unconscious.

The three men faced jail sentences but Judge Onions said alcohol played a large part in the fight and "Sergeant Middleditch's references are the best I have seen, serving his country in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Armagh and now due to return to Afghanistan on September 19.

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