A 15-year-old boy was left covered in blood and with a broken nose after a former St Helens rugby league star attacked him because he thought he was bullying his son.
Vila Matautia, 48, knocked Cole Olverson unconscious in the attack in Rainford in Merseyside, in December last year.
The ex-Samoan international admitted repeatedly punching the child in an assault and causing actual bodily harm.
But he said he battered Cole, who was at the time a year 11 school pupil, because he bullied his son, who was in year eight.
Matautia walked free from court today after receiving a seven-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
Cole Olverson, 15, was left with a broken nose and covered in blood after a former St Helens rugby league star attacked him behind a pub in Rainford in Merseyside
Vila Matautia, 48, said he battered Cole, who was at the time a year 11 school pupil, because he bullied his son, who was in year eight
Judge Steven Everett said it was important Cole was not criticised in any way as there was no direct evidence of bullying.
He said: ‘I’m quite prepared to accept that you genuinely believed your son had been bullied and that either the complainant Cole Olverson or one of his friends was the person who had bulled your son.
‘I’m quite prepared to accept that because from what I’ve heard about you, you wouldn’t have carried out this attack unless there was this genuine belief.
‘But the first thing it is important to say, whether there was this genuine belief or not, is this isn’t the way to deal with things.
He was given a seven-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months
‘You don’t take the law into your own hands, which is what you did. You’re a strong powerful man. He is a 15-year-old boy.
‘It was inevitable who was going to come out the worse and that is what happened.
‘You repeatedly punched him to the face. I hope you’ve seen those injuries and seen what you did to that boy.’
Since the attack Cole has struggled with breathing and has depression and anxiety.
Cole was stood with friends behind the Golden Lion pub at around 4.35pm on December 4 last year.
Liverpool Crown Court heard he received a Snapchat message from Matautia’s son, asking where he was, but did not respond.
Matautia then walked down the side of the pub towards him and Cole, who did not know who he was, asked ‘are you alright?’.
The boy said he was knocked unconscious and when he came to he was aware Matautia had hit him around five more times.
He said Matautia stood over him and said ‘you’re a bully’ and when asked why, he replied: ‘If I find you’ve done anything again, I will cut you.’
Matautia got out his phone as if to take a photo of the boy lying on the ground. His son was also spotted in the area.
Cole suffered a fractured nasal bone, a cut to his nose, plus bruising to his forehead, left cheek and jaw. He still struggles with breathing.
Cole, now 16, still struggles with breathing and has anxiety and depression. He suffered a fractured nasal bone, a cut to his nose, plus bruising to his forehead, left cheek and jaw
Matautia, pictured here while playing for St Helens, stood over Cole and said ‘you’re a bully’ and when asked why, he replied: ‘If I find you’ve done anything again, I will cut you’
Matautia, from St Helens, was arrested but lied to police during his first interview, claiming he wasn’t at the scene.
His mobile phone showed he was and when interviewed again, he said he went there to speak to the boys about bullying.
He claimed another boy pulled a knife on him, that he hit it out of the male’s hand and then punched Cole once in self-defence.
Matautia was part of the Saints side which won Super League, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge honours in the 1990s and 2000s.
Tom Watson, defending, said the prop forward, who has a caution for battery in March 2002, led ‘a rather exemplary life’.
He said he was ‘sorry’, adding: ‘He feels a deep sense of shame and quite frankly, he also feels a deep sense of embarrassment.
‘He is not normally a person who would behave in this way. He knows as well as distressing and upsetting for this young man, he has made a spectacle of himself.
‘That is not the way this man ordinarily lives his life and it’s not the way he is going to behave in the future.’
A probation report assessed Matautia, who now works as a self-employed plasterer, as having a low risk of re-offending.
Judge Everett handed him a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement and an indefinite restraining order.
After the hearing, Cole’s mum, Joanne Olverson, 35, said she was ‘disappointed’ with the sentence and felt Matautia ‘got away with it’
She said: ‘There is no justification for knocking a child unconscious. Taking a photo of him lying on the floor, that to me was the sickening thing, and threatening to cut him’
The judge ordered him to pay £1,000 in compensation to Cole and £400 towards prosecution costs
He ordered him to pay £1,000 in compensation to Cole and £400 towards prosecution costs.
After the hearing, Cole’s mum, Joanne Olverson, 35, said she was ‘disappointed’ with the sentence and felt Matautia ‘got away with it’.
Speaking outside of court, she said Cole fell out with Matautia’s son over a minor disagreement, but denied he ever bullied him.
She said her friend found Cole, now 16, covered in blood and unable to walk, with his face such a mess ‘you wouldn’t recognise him’.
Mrs Olverson said: ‘There is no justification for knocking a child unconscious.
‘Taking a photo of him lying on the floor, that to me was the sickening thing, and threatening to cut him.
‘He’s a good lad and he’s never been in trouble. He had four months off school when his dad died. When he went back to school, it was only part time.
‘After this happened, he was doing a mechanics apprenticeship, he had to stop that and was suffering anxiety and depression.
‘He doesn’t go out anymore, doesn’t hang out with his mates and dropped out of college.
‘He only sat three GCSEs because he had a month off after this happened, because his face was a mess.’
She said Cole was now having counselling and added: ‘Really since it’s happened, his life has been put on hold.’