A Far North man who king-hit a concert-goer and left him with serious brain and facial injuries has pleaded guilty just as his trial was about to start.

Jaydin Robert Locke, 27, from Kerikeri, was to have gone on trial in the Kaikohe District Court yesterday on a charge of wounding with reckless disregard.

The charge arose from an incident at a Bob Marley All-Stars concert at Kerikeri's Kainui Rd Winery in February last year in which Locke punched the victim in the side of the head in what is commonly known as a "king hit" or more accurately as a "coward's punch".

A year later the victim, a Kerikeri chef, is still unable to return to his job at a Paihia restaurant.

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A witness who saw the punch and an ED specialist from Whangarei Hospital were to have given evidence.

However, as the judge-only trial was about to start Locke pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of injuring with reckless disregard. Wounding with reckless disregard carries a maximum prison term of seven years; injuring a maximum of five.

Locke, who now lives in Warkworth, was remanded on bail until his sentencing date of April 5.

The victim, Derek Tanner, a father of four young children, said he was still suffering the after-effects of the assault and had been unable to return to work.

He was pleased Locke had pleaded guilty, even though it was a reduced charge, because it spared him going through a trial and reliving the assault.

''I think he had no choice. He knew what he'd done, he knew the evidence was stacked against him.''

Mr Tanner suffered a brain bleed as a result of the punch, one eyesocket is held together with titanium mesh and screws hold his cheekbones in place.