A MAN turned up at a distant cousin's home shouting homophobic insults and inviting him on to the street for a fight, a court heard.

While David Robin Ellerton, 53, of Raby Road, Ferryhill, admitted the public order offence, he denied his motivation had been homophobic, when he appeared before magistrates in Newton Aycliffe.

But Keith Laidlaw, prosecuting, said he was treating it as a hate crime because of the insults shouted at the victim.

He said: "The victim was awoken by a loud banging noise.

"He went to the window to see what was going on, and saw Mr Ellerton, a distant cousin, banging and shouting.

"He was saying he was a 'poof' and a 'gay t***' and said he should go and fight him. The defendant appeared to be drunk."

Ellerton continued the abuse for some time, then got into the car with a driver, drove off, did a U-turn and returned, just as police came to the scene in Darlington.

The victim said later he had known Ellerton his whole life and the incident had made him annoyed, angry and upset, as well as his family.

Darren Brown, mitigating on behalf of Ellerton, said: "While he accepts the words that were said were homophobic, the motivation was not the fact that the complainant is a homosexual."

He said there had been an incident three or four weeks earlier where he claimed the victim had pushed Ellerton to the ground, and he was angry about this and had gone to his house to confront him.

"It was not about the fact his relative was a homosexual," he said.

Ellerton had been an alcoholic for many years and had almost stopped drinking, but the incident was a relapse, the court was told.

He was subject to a suspended prison sentence but after hearing from probation workers about the work he had done to stop drinking and turn his life around, magistrates decided not to send him to prison.

He was given a 12 month community order, fined £100 and ordered to pay £85 costs and £85 victim surcharge.