A 16-year-old boy savagely attacked a man with a wooden fence paling, striking him in the head during a brutal assault in Dapto, a court has heard.
The Illawarra teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was one of four young men police said were involved in the violent assault, which left the victim with a life-threatening brain injury.
Giving the teen a two-year suspended jail sentence yesterday, Judge Paul Conlon said the man, now 18, was the principal protagonist.
"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this offender began ripping fence palings off and then armed himself to attack the victim," he told Wollongong District Court.
"In my view, the blow to the victim's head, delivered by this offender with the fence paling, was likely responsible for fracturing the victim's skull."
The teen and the three co-accused, who also cannot be named, travelled to Dapto on February 25 last year to attend a party.
Police were shutting down the event when they arrived, so the group decided to head to the train station.
The teens started walking through a park when they came across the victim and his friends, the court heard.
The 19-year-old, who was intoxicated, started speaking to them but quickly headed away.
The teens then started hurling abuse at the victim, to which he replied: "Come around the corner."
The two groups traded insults before the victim started walking towards the teens with a friend close behind.
The victim then walked into a front yard and allegedly picked up a roof tile.
The offender then yelled out to the victim as he started pulling palings from a fence.
It is alleged he handed them to the other boys before they ran towards the victim.
One boy allegedly threw the victim to the ground as the offender struck him across the head with the paling.
The victim was taken to Wollongong Hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery.
He was in a coma for several days and had to have a titanium plate inserted into his skull.
The teen, who pleaded guilty to recklessly causing grievous bodily harm in company, had no criminal record and had shown remorse.
Judge Conlon conceded the victim had somewhat provoked the assault, allegedly calling out to the group and picking up the tile, but said his injuries were severe.
A second co-offender pleaded guilty to the attack and was sentenced earlier this year.
Two other co-accused have pleaded not guilty and are set to stand trial next year.