A REGULAR offender jailed shortly before Christmas for a street attack, has gained his freedom early after being given a “last chance”.

Lee Steven Cooke was given a 22-week prison sentence by North Durham magistrates on December 20.

It was imposed after 24-year-old Cooke, of Churchill Square, Gilesgate, Durham, admitted causing a fear or provocation of violence.

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It arose from an incident in which he shouted abuse at a 17-year-old student who, he claimed, owed him money - before flaying several punches at him, most of which missed, in the Market Place, Durham, on September 3 last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that after being pulled away from the youth, he later threw another punch which also missed, in a further confrontation in North Road.

Cooke was arrested next day and claimed he was in a pub at the time.

But, he later made admissions when a police officer spoke to him about another matter, also in the Market Place, a month later.

The court heard that Cooke has 47 convictions for 97 offences, including 32 offences against the person.

Andrew Finlay, for Cooke, appealed against the length of the sentence imposed claiming it was only four weeks short of the maximum for such an offence, when the defendant had pleaded guilty.

The court heard that Cooke received a “positive” pre-sentence report, indicating he was finally starting to engage with the Probation Service.

Recorder Alistair MacDonald, sitting with two magistrates, said while a custodial sentence was merited, they would allow Cooke to try to engage further with the Probation Service.

The sentence was amended to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, during which he will be subject to probation supervision, including attending a “thinking skills” project.

Recorder MacDonald told Cooke it was, “a last chance” to get his life in order.