A STUDENT thug from Cam who left a man with life-changing brain damage after punching him during a night out was locked up for three years and four months today.

Christopher Perrett, 20, of Stonelea, knocked Liam Malone unconscious with a powerful blow to the back of the head causing him to smash his skull on the pavement.

Mr Malone, 24, suffered massive swelling on the left side of his brain and had to have a huge section of his skull removed after the incident in Cheltenham.

Surgeons said he would have died had it not been for recent medical advances but even so he is unlikely to make a full recovery.

Perrett, of Stonelea, Dursley, Glos, was found guilty at Gloucester crown court last month of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Malone.

Today at Bristol crown court he was sentenced to 40 months in a young offenders' institute.

Sentencing him, Judge William Hart described his action as "cowardly".

"You threw a powerful punch at Liam Malone, flooring him," he said. "He was not a threat to you and what makes it worse was that he was not facing you. It was cowardly.

"Your previous convictions show a similar level of drunken, aggressive violence."

He added: "You are something of an enigma. You are far from unintelligent and come from a good home, which will make custody harder to bear.

"You understand the seriousness of Liam Malone's injuries. If you feel sorry for yourself then you only have to imagine what it is like for him.

"The punch you threw had the intention of causing serious harm, not grievous bodily harm. You intended this to end as it ended."

The confrontation started when Perrett and a friend bizarrely taunted Mr Malone about 'plankton and a beached whale' outside the 2 Pigs nightclub in Cheltenham.

Mr Malone, who was confused by the taunts, became annoyed and a scuffle followed, but he was pulled back by friends at around 4am on June 2 last year.

Perrett then threw a 'powerful punch' and Mr Malone smashed onto the pavement. He was taken to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital then Bristol's Frenchay Hospital.

Sentencing him, Judge Hart said: "The language you used, the 'plankton', towards Liam Malone had only one purpose - to wind him up and provoke a reaction.

"Liam did not hit you but he did have to be restrained. You wanted to create a conflict."

He added: "He could have and would have died if this had happened a few years ago.

"He has been deeply affected and the damage may be permanent, though some recovery has been made."

The court heard Perrett - who blew a kiss from the dock to his sobbing mother - was a "changed man".

Mary Cowe, defending, said he was two months away from finishing a BTEC in mechanical engineering when the confrontation happened.

She added: "He expresses remorse. He accepts that what he did was wrong.

"He knows he must be punished for what he has done but knows he will never be in this situation again."