A MAN who chased two 14-year-old girls and kicked down a garden gate before pushing them to the ground and headbutting their friend has received a suspended prison sentence.

Alan Francis Slaven made racist and offensive comments when he boarded a bus in Darlington on which the girls were travelling on October 1.

After one of them told the 28-year-old to shut up, he got off at the same stop and followed them down an alley to a garden where they sought refuge.

One of the girls also rang a male friend, aged 16, on her mobile phone and told him they were being followed.

Orianna Frame, prosecuting at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court, said: “The defendant entered the garden with force, in a panic she (one of the girls) knocked on the next door neighbour’s window and the defendant pushed her, knocked her to the floor and tried to punch her. The other came to help and she was pushed but managed to hold onto the gate.

“The boy then entered and told him to leave them alone, at which point they ran for a neighbour’s help. The defendant tried to headbutt the 16-year-old male who intervened. He had been walking his dog when he received a phone call from one of the girls arranging to meet up, then another within five minutes shouting that she was being followed by a man. When he arrived he noticed he was close to the girls and getting in their faces, one had a strimmer in defence. He could tell Alan was drunk as he was unsteady on his feet and the girls were petrified and crying.”

Magistrates heard from a probation officer that Slaven, of Tyne Crescent, Darlington, has mental health problems and epilepsy. He lives with his mother who is his carer.

He has used alcohol since he was about 16 and also claimed to have been the victim of antisocial behaviour for the past five to six months. Although he admits he needs to control his temper, she believed he had ‘poor victim empathy’ and did not see the three victims as children.

The court was also told that following his arrest, Slaven carried out a dirty protest in a cell at Darlington Police Station.

Chairman of the bench, David Shallow, said: “This was a serious incident, we appreciate there are some underlying factors which are not fully aware of but feel the custody threshold has been passed on all three assaults on children.”

Slaven, who pleaded guilty to three charges of assault by beating and of criminal damage to a police cell at an earlier hearing, was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for two years. He must complete an anger management course, six months of alcohol treatment and 15 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR) days. He was also ordered to pay £100 compensation to the police to cover cleaning costs, £75 compensation to each of the children and given a two-year restraining order not to contact or be within 100m of them.