A JILTED husband bombarded his estranged wife with text messages and rammed her car when he saw her in the street near her Darlington home, a court heard.

Anthony James was told his "ugly" behaviour merited prison but he earned lenience through his guilty pleas and because he had not been in trouble for five years.

James, 42, of Rydal Road, Darlington, admitted charges of dangerous driving and the harassment of his ex-wife, Katherine James, in January this year.

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Yesterday, he was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 100 hours ofunpaid community work.

Judge George Moorhouse also imposed two years of supervision and a restraining order for five years as well as a 12-month driving ban.

James, who has a conviction from 2005 for assaulting a different ex-partner, was also ordered to attend a domestic violence awareness programme.

His barrister, Jonathan Walker, told Teesside Crown Court that James had stayed out of trouble for some time and that he had never been to prison.

Mr Walker admitted James deserved jail for what he described as "an ugly series of events" but urged Judge Moorhouse to suspend the custodial term.

The court heard that the couple had been together for four years and had been married for a year before the relationship started to break down.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said Mrs James blamed her husband's "controlling and manipulative" behaviour for the problems in their marriage.

In January, she made allegations of him repeatedly sending mobile phone text messages.

That led to James being given a police warning about harassment. Five days later, he threatened to smash up the car of her new boyfriend, and as Mrs James's drove through Vancouver Street her vehicle was rammed.

When James was arrested, he confessed to sending sexual texts, and admitted following the couple in their car before driving into the back of it.

Judge Moorhouse told him: "These are very serious offences, offences which could justify a lengthy custodial sentence.

"However, I have read the report about you. You have pleaded guilty and have been out of trouble for the past five years."