A CAR sales manager punched a colleague in the face, fracturing his eye socket following a disagreement over keys.

Wigan magistrates heard that there had previously been several disputes between victim David Sloane and his manager, 55-year-old Barry Linnell, at Bolton Motor Park on Manchester Road, Bolton.

But on August 31 last year the relationship became violent.

Stacey Morrow, prosecuting, told magistrates how, at 3.25pm Linnell approached 23-year-old Mr Sloane’s desk and asked him if he had the keys to the dealership.

Mr Sloane replied that he gave them to someone else two weeks earlier and then followed Linnell to his office to ask him why he thought he would have the keys, with the manager replying, “It’s always you.”

Linnell became verbally abusive but as Mr Sloane turned to leave the room his manager punched him in the face.

The Bolton News: Barry LinnellBarry Linnell

Mr Sloane was punched several times, falling to the floor where Linnell then knelt on him.

“He described being shocked and dazed, trying to crawl away but the defendant was on top of him,” said Ms Morrow.

Mr Sloane was taken to the Royal Bolton Hospital where doctors diagnosed a fractured eye socket and the court heard that Linnell phoned him, admitting, “I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Linnell, of Bankside, Parbold, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm and magistrates were told that, three years ago, he was convicted of assaulting another colleague at a different dealership, receiving a conditional discharge for that offence.

Patrick Nelligan, defending said the relationship between Linnell and Mr Sloane had been fractious and the manager had punched his victim after fearing he would be attacked himself.

“He accepts that he used excessive force.” said Mr Nelligan, who added that Linnell no longer works at the dealership. but has been promised his old job back if he does not go to jail. “It is a very high octane, pressurised sales job, especially during Covid,” said Mr Nelligan.

The Bolton News: Bolton Motor ParkBolton Motor Park

In a statement Linnell’s general manager Jonathan Wolstenholme described Mr Sloane, who also no longer works at the dealership, as having “a heart of gold but an unfortunate manner”.

Linnell was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years and was ordered to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work and 25 days of rehabilitation activities as well as paying his victim £300 in compensation.