A practical joke went horrifically wrong when a drunken dad began strangling one of his friends to try and scare him.
Michael Moss took his belt off and wrapped it round the other man’s neck, pulling it tight and lifting him slightly off the ground.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard the victim’s face went red and his eyes started rolling back in his head. It was only when other friends urged 32-year-old Moss to stop that he let him go.
The man fell to the floor unconscious and appeared to have a fit, but later recovered.
Prosecutor Alexander Pritchard-Jones said the group had met up at a house in Leek to watch football on December 4. After drinking alcohol and enjoying themselves, events took a dark twist.
“The conversation turned to the question of fears – whether there was anything they were scared of,” he added.
When one of them said nothing frightened them, Moss decided to put the claim to the test.
The court was told the defendant put his leather belt round the person’s neck in an incident that lasted up to 10 seconds.
“This very much scared him,” said Mr Pritchard-Jones, recounting the victim’s reaction. “He tried to get his finger between the neck and the belt, but was unable to do so.”
The man, who is on the autistic spectrum, was left so traumatised by what happened that he’s now too afraid to venture out of his home.
Moss, of Windsor Drive, Leek, was also visibly shocked when he realised what he had done.
Other witnesses described how it had been ‘banter that went too far’. One said afterwards: “I tried to get him to calm down. Mozzy kept saying ‘sorry’.”
The father-of-one, who makes garden furniture for a living, went on to plead guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Scott Ashdown, mitigating, said: “It was the kind of conversation that perhaps one would expect to hear of children rather than grown-ups, when they started talking about what they were fearful of and what they were not. It was very puerile.
“What set out as a practical joke had unintended and far-reaching consequences.”
Mr Ashdown said the defendant had been ‘brought to tears’ at the thought of what he had done to his friend. “He is deeply regretful and ashamed,” he told the court.
Moss has now been sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
He must also complete 160 hours of unpaid work, 10 rehabilitation activity days, and pay £1,500 court costs and £500 in compensation to his victim.
Judge Paul Glenn told him: “What may have been messing around went catastrophically too far. You strangled this man. It’s highly reckless and highly dangerous.
“You were plainly highly intoxicated. You could have killed this complainant.”