A RUGBY player bit off most of a man’s ear during a bloody, pre-arranged fight outside a Malvern nightclub.

The disfiguring attack by John Friths outside Priors Croft nightclub in Malvern was described as ‘devastating’ by the judge who jailed him at Worcester Crown Court on Thursday.

The 20-year-old had denied section 18 wounding (with intent) but admitted section 20 wounding (on a reckless basis) following the attack on James Bannister who lost two thirds of his ear, leaving him permanently disfigured despite ongoing reconstructive surgery.

Michael Hall, prosecuting, said words were exchanged between the two men in the club's smoking area on June 2 last year. Both men left the club, heading 30 metres down the road towards a carpark to have a fight.

Mr Hall said a punch was thrown which did not connect and the two men entered an ‘embrace’, the point at which Mr Bannister felt the pain to his ear.

Mr Hall said: "He put his hand to his ear. He was able to feel the blood."

A witness described seeing Mr Bannister with ‘skin hanging from his ear and blood pouring from it’. Friths was described by Mr Bannister as 'running away' before 'turning back to smile at him'.

Friths of Duke of Edinburgh Way, Malvern, was arrested at the scene and Mr Bannister was taken to A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester where he received eight stitches to his ear.

In interview Friths said he thought he had left the club to ‘talk’ and claimed he had been punched on the back of the head by Mr Bannister before the two grappled. Asked if he had bitten Mr Bannister Friths said ‘no’.

Friths, who had been drinking at the time of the assault, was asked how he thought Mr Bannister had sustained the injury to which he replied: “I can’t remember but if anything did happen, it was self-defence.”

However, Friths pleaded guilty on the day of trial which Mr Hall said showed he had abandoned his original account and had accepted his guilt.

A surgeon described how the bite left Mr Bannister missing two thirds of the right ear with the helical rim now missing. The ear has since been reconstructed using grafts of cartilage from his ribs and skin grafts from his neck in two operations, work that has so far cost Mr Bannister’s parents £7,000. However, Mr Bannister faces the prospect of further operations, the court heard.

Mr Bannister had to take several weeks off work and the surgery has left a permanent scar on his neck from where the skin graft was taken.

In a victim personal statement Mr Bannister said: “I feel like I have been left with a permanent disfigurement which has affected my confidence and self-esteem hugely.”

Since the attack he has been prescribed anti-depressants and has moved away from the Malvern area because the incident had remained ‘a topic of conversation’ in the town.

Niall Skinner, for Friths, said: "Ordinarily he's a very well-mannered, useful and successful member of the community. Mr Friths himself is disgusted with what he did."

He described how Friths played rugby for the Malvern rugby first XV. His parents were at court to support him. Mr Skinner said: "I don't think this will be repeated."

Judge Nicolas Cartwright said the fact that the fight was 'pre-planned' made it more serious although he accepted that Mr Bannister was 'not a blameless victim who was the subject of a completely unprovoked attack'.

He added: "People who live and socialise in Malvern should not be exposed to grown men squaring up to fight and then doing so.

"The injury you inflicted on James Bannister was devastating. You removed two thirds of this young man's ear with your teeth. You used your teeth to bite someone's ear which amounts to extreme violence."

Judge Cartwright sentenced him to 16 months in a young offender institution.

No order was made for compensation or costs, the judge telling Friths: "His losses are well beyond your ability to pay."