Fists flew, blood was spilled and one man lay dazed in the corridor of his barracks.
It was not self-defense, a court martial at Linton Military Camp ruled on Wednesday.
Lance Corporal James Laurenson, 28, was found guilty of wounding with intent to injure 32-year-old Private Scott Clark in Hinton barracks at the camp on December 14, 2018.
Laurenson’s rank was downgraded to private and he will spend 30 days in military prison at Burnham in Christchurch.
“If you had simply acted in self-defense against that first blow and done nothing more I very much doubt we would be in this court now,” Judge Kevin Riordan said during sentencing.
Blood from the fight splattered the walls. It stained the corridor’s carpet and painted Clark’s face and body.
At least four lacerations from his face stained his sheets and pillow red after Laurenson and Sergeant David Wrightson tried to patch him up and put him to bed after the assault.
Wrightson, 35, was tried alongside Laurenson for failing to comply with written orders for not intervening when Laurenson was assaulting Clark. He was found not guilty.
Clark was woken by the pair when they entered his room in the early hours of the morning – they were all drunk after an end-of-year function.
Laurenson and Wrightson were checking on Clark’s wellbeing after seeing vomit on the floor, defence lawyers said.
Frustrated at the intrusion, Clark asked the men to leave, but the invasion continued, he said.
He described Laurenson throwing peanuts around his room and making fun of his ability to handle his beers as he had sprayed his room with vomit in a failed attempt to reach a sink before falling asleep.
Clark snapped after 30 minutes, launching himself at Laurenson.
Clark admitted he swung first, but the trial came down to the accused’s intentions during the few moments after Laurenson struck his first blow to Clark, Riordan said.
A person under attack could use reasonable force to defend themselves, but they must stop when the attack stopped, he said.
The severity of Clark’s injuries and the 15-metre distance the fight travelled from the barracks room showed Laurenson’s intent was to give Clark a “jolly good beating”, prosecutor Colonel Craig Ruane said.
“When [Clark] was safe in his bed at night time he should have been allowed to carry on sleeping. He shouldn’t have had to deal with an experienced soldier like you disrespecting him,” the judge told Laurenson.
“When he woke up the next morning covered in blood that must have been quite a shock to him. There is something of mental trauma associated with this.
“Anyone else who is in your situation must be deterred from doing this ever again.”