A “controlling” ex boyfriend who spat at and slapped a woman has been spared jail after bombarding her with hundreds of emails and kicking down her front door.

Stephen Hickman said he harassed and assaulted his girlfriend of eight years because she “was his life” and he “gave up so much to be with her”.

But Teesside Crown Court heard the 50-year-old’s tirade of abuse pushed his victim to her “breaking point”.

Hickman was previously ordered by the court never to contact the woman again after he was convicted of common assault for spitting and slapping her in March this year.

But just three months later he breached his restraining order when he turned up at her home unannounced and kicked down her front door.

The former miner also bombarded his ex with more than 500 emails over a six month period and branded her a "thieving money grabbing lowlife piece of sh**".

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said the pair got together after the breakdown of Hickman’s previous marriage but the victim believed “he blamed her for the break down and she remembered him being controlling.

She said: “He was previously charged with two common assaults which resulted in a restraining order against the same victim.

“He spat, slapped her and verbally threatened her.”

But after the pair broke up earlier this year Hickman “struggled to let go” and he bombarded her more than 500 emails as well as several letters.

Ms Atkinson said: “There were 508 emails sent, some of a loving nature, saying "I love you" but they were persistent.

“There were up to 19 emails in one day.

“In others he called her a thieving money grabbing lowlife piece of sh**, a c***, a tramp and asked her to lift the restraining order.

“On June 1st she went to a Take That concert but she got a phone call from her neighbour that he was kicking her door down.”

Ms Atkinson who recommended a starting point of one year in prison added: “She said she is at her breaking point.

“She keeps her blinds down, her doors locked. He knows where she goes and works.

“She wants him to stop and leave her alone.”

Speaking via a video link from Leeds Prison, Hickman said he harassed his former girlfriend because he “struggled to let go” after he “gave so much to be with her”.

Hickman, who has been in custody for five weeks and has four previous convictions, said: “The reason I was like that was because she was my life.

“I gave up so much to be with her and I struggled to let go. But now I have. I am sorry for what’s happened.”

Peter Sabisdon, defending, said: “He had the view that the relationship was going to get back on but he pursued it inappropriately. He accepts he was jealous.

“It is possible for the custody because of the number of emails but they are not the worse we have seen.”

Judge Howard Crowson said the three harassment charges, one count of criminal damage and a breach of a restraining order were “very serious” and worthy of a custodial sentence.

But Hickman was spared jail and instead handed a 12 month suspended sentence.

The restraining order was also extended for to five years and he will be under a curfew for one month, preventing him from leaving his home in Aldenham Road, Guisborough, between 8pm and 6am.

Judge Crowson said: “He needs to understand that this is serious.

“When you are the person at the other end of this kind of thing, it is wearing. This is why a custodial sentence is an option.

“Mr Hickman, you have had five weeks in prison now, I imagine that is had some impact on you.

“This offence is very serious. Although an individual act has minor impact, it is the repeated offending. It gets to the point where people cannot live their lives. Some of this was trivial but none of it was welcomed.

“You have had a spell in prison and I don’t want to stop you from working.”