THE leader of a gang which savagely beat a boy in the street dodged prison  because his younger friends were dealt with leniently.

Daniel Hunter's victim was left unconscious in the road with blood pouring from an ear and doctors feared he had suffered brain damage.

The 16-year-old was walking home in Hartlepool late at night when he was viciously set upon by Hunter and four others in April last year.

He spent hours alone in hospital because his mother cannot speak English and could not communicate with police when he failed to return.

The Latvia-born boy - who has been in the UK two years - will now only go out if he is on his bike so he can quickly pedal away from danger.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Hunter jumped on his back and knocked him to the ground before he was kicked and punched unconscious.

Two passers-by ran to help and chased away the baying pack before calling police and paramedics to the horror scene on West View Road.

The witnesses told detectives it seemed like a tug-of-war as the gang pushed and pulled the boy across the road as they assaulted him.

As he slipped in and out of consciousness, the terrified youngster opened an eye and said to one of his saviours: "Please don't hit me again."

When police arrested Hunter, he had blood on his trainers and tracksuit bottoms, and snarled: "I'll f***ing stab him next time I see him."

He walked from court with a 12-month suspended prison sentence, 100 hours of unpaid work, £200 compensation and supervision.

Judge Peter Armstrong told the jobless lout, 19, that he would have locked up all of the remorseless gang had they been dealt with together.

Magistrates gave two 17-year-olds youth rehabilitation orders while another two escaped prosecution altogether because of witness difficulties.

Judge Armstrong told Hunter, who admitted actual bodily harm assault: "It may be that you benefit from the good fortune of the others.

"Had it not been for the sentences passed on the others, I think I would have sent you away today because this was a serious attack.

"It is more by good fortune than good management that he didn't suffer fractures or anything more serious than soft tissue damage."

The boy was in hospital for three days while doctors carried out X-rays and scans on his skull and brain, said prosecutor Sue Jacobs.

Paul Cleasby, mitigating, argued that Hunter, of Marina Drive, Hartlepool, should be dealt with in a similar way to the other yobs.

He said his client's probation report made "depressing reading" but said the one positive was that he had not been in trouble since.

Hunter had, however, appeared in court just 11 days before the attack and was on two orders imposed by magistrates at the time.

Mr Cleasby admitted: "There is nothing I can say to mitigate the offence. For anybody watching it, it was a disgusting episode."

The judge told Hunter: "Had you and all the others come before this court, I am quite sure all of you would be sent away.

"But, for some reason, the magistrates took a different view of those who were younger and passed youth rehabilitation orders."