A MAN who assaulted his ex-girlfriend and punched a police officer in the face before escaping on a bus has been spared jail - despite breaching his restraining order a second time.

Ashley Fairhurst had only recently been released from prison for previously breaching the order banning him from contacting his former girlfriend when the latest offences took place on Thursday, May 8.

Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe heard the woman was in a pub in Ferryhill on May 8 with friends when the 24-year-old approached her.

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Prosecutor Blair Martin said the woman left but Fairhurst followed her outside and asked if he could go back to her house.

“When he did not get the answer he wanted he shouted in her face, grabbed her by the hair and then swung her to the ground, causing her to suffer reddening to her back and neck," he said.

The woman and her friends then returned to her home but Fairhurst continued following them, the court heard.

The group then went to another house but Fairhurst continued to pursue them and the police were called.

Mr Martin said that as Sergeant Clare Hargreaves tried to arrest him, he punched her in the face before slipping from his jacket and running off. The officer suffered swelling and pain to her cheek.

Eight hours later Fairhurst, of Willow Road, Ferryhill, returned to another house, where his ex girlfriend was staying, and kicked the door in while making threats that he would kill her.

He grabbed his ex girlfriend and pushed her against the wall before police arrived. Again Fairhurst ran off and got on a passing bus.

Mr Martin said that officers spotted him a short while later and gave chase before Fairhurst gave himself up after finding his way blocked by a high fence.

The court heard that police received more than 60 call outs relating to Fairhurst and his former girlfriend during their relationship.

Andrew Clinton, mitigating, said Fairhurst, who admitted breaching a restraining order, assaulting his ex girlfriend and the police officer and causing criminal damage, was due to start a job which would take him away from the area.

Magistrates sentenced him to 16 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months with supervision and 100 hours unpaid work.

He must also pay £100 compensation to his ex-girlfriend and the police officer for the assaults.