VIOLENCE flared when two strangers crossed paths at the doorway of a crowded smoking area outside a city centre bar, on the approach to Christmas last year, a court was told.

Dean Spencer is said to have launched a head-butt attack on the other man on the balcony terrace alongside Fabio’s, a popular second-floor venue, in Saddler Street, Durham.

Although he admits landing the blow, to the face of the complainant in the case, the alleged attacker claims he was acting first in self-defence, fearing he was about to be assaulted himself.

Appearing at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court, the 28-year-old defendant, of Bryony Walk, Shotton Colliery, denied assault causing actual bodily harm.

His alleged victim, who was said to have done some modelling work, suffered a cut or scar on the upper chin, beneath his lip.

The court heard that events on the smoking area that night, Saturday December 17, were captured by the bar’s cctv coverage.

Asked by Judge Christopher Prince if his client had viewed the footage, defence counsel, Martin Scarborough, confirmed he had and is standing by his denial to committing the offence.

Judge Prince said: “Surely, the first step in self-defence is trying to walk away, or step backwards, that’s what I would do if some was being verbally aggressive to me.”

Mr Scarborough replied: “It was a crowded smoking area where he went out looking for his friends.

“He would say the complainant was verbally aggressive and, in that crowded area he thought he was going to be struck, so got the first blow in.

“He has seen the cctv footage, which lasts about five minutes, and he’s elected trial in this case.”

A trial date, for a hearing expected to last a little more than one-day, was agreed and the defendant was bailed to return for the start of the hearing, at the court, on Thursday November 23.