A “DISGRACEFUL” ex boyfriend who punched the mother of his child repeatedly until a group of teenagers shouted him to stop has been spared jail.

Karl Hornsby “lost his temper” and attacked his former partner because he believed she was messaging other men, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The 36-year-old separated from the woman shortly before the assault and was "ashamed of himself" after overreacting at the prospect of his ex girlfriend speaking to other people.

The court heard Hornsby hit the woman in the face before pulling her hair and repeatedly punching her until she cried and suffered a black eye.

A group of young teenagers who witnessed the assault on in Middlesbrough on May 31 this year rang the police after surrounding the couple and shouting at Hornsby to leave her alone.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said: “The defendant and complainant have been in a relationship and they have a young child. The relationship came to an end however they do maintain contact with each other.

“The complainant met the defendant at work and started to walk towards towards the train station and walked across a bridge, known as the blue bridge, near James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

“On the bridge the defendant became argumentative and asked her if she was texting other people. Her response was to keep walking but he became more abusive towards her. She called him an idiot which angered him even more.

“He said he was going to punch her in the face – and that’s what he did. The complainant told him to get away but he walked in front of her and started shouting at her. He grabbed her by the hair and punched her not once, not twice but three times in the head.

“She pushed him away and grabbed at his top. He said “one more time” then punched her in the eye. She said it was a hard hit and it took her breath away. She started crying and blood came from her nose.

“There was a group of young people, a boy who was 14 was there with his friends. He saw the defendant shouting in her face and they heard a scream. He said the defendant punched and pushed her continually.

“The group shouted and told him leave her alone. It got to the point that the group surrounded the defendant to get him to stop. The young man said the complainant was crying and he was almost in tears himself.”

The court heard Hornsby regretted his overreaction and felt ashamed after seeing pictures of the injuries he had inflicted on the mother of his child.

Michele Turner, defending, said the 36-year-old has since self referred himself to an anger management programme and suffers with mental health challenges including suicidal thoughts, unresolved grief and depression.

She added the victim hoped Hornsby was spared jail so he could continue to spend time with their child.

Handing Hornsby a six month sentence suspended for two years and ordering him to take part in rehabilitation sessions, Judge Stephen Ashurst said he behaved in a “disgraceful way.”

He said: “You assaulted your former partner for no good reason other that you could not control your temper. It wasn’t a small slap but you hit her several times in the face. She got a nasty black eye. She was obviously in pain and distressed as a result of what you did.

“She has nothing but praise for you and how you have been struggling with issues involving your mental health. She is effectively pleading on your behalf for you not to be sent to prison. I take a very dim view on someone who attacks someone who was an intimate partner for no good reason in public.

“The indignity of being attacked with way heavily on her but she wants to move on and maintain a relationship with you for the purpose of other family members.

“I hope this will put you in a better position to not act in such a disgraceful way in the future.”

Hornsby, of Thornton Street, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to assault leading to actual bodily harm.