A MAN who pulled a knife out of his bag and threatened to kill his former girlfriend after accusing her of spending too much time on her phone has avoided prison.

Joshua Armstrong, from Washington, had been spending the night at his girlfriend's home in Chester-le-Street on January 19 when they started arguing.

Durham Crown Court heard the 23-year-old had become angry with her, accusing her of spending too much time on her phone.

After leaving her home in the early hours of the morning, he then returned and they continued to argue.

He then pushed her, threw a plastic bottle at her and squeezed her neck, causing the woman to throw a phone charger at him.

Ian West, prosecuting, said: "He went to his rucksack and returned with a flick knife, he then came over to where she was on the sofa and had the knife to her neck and said 'your ex should have killed you' and said he was going to kill her."

In brandishing the knife, he caused a minor injury to her calf.

Armstrong was later arrested and has pleaded guilty to possession of a bladed article and affray.

Robert Turton, mitigating, said several character references had been submitted to the court.

He said: "There is another side to this young man.

"He is a hard worker and he has tried to meet the struggles life has thrown him."

He added that Armstrong had some learning difficulties and had borderline Asperger's.

Addressing judge Simon Kealey, he said: "The greater public interest in the long term maybe that your honour gives him a chance. He's never had one before.

"The probation service feels this is someone they can do business with. The risk of a custodial sentence is that he will lose the scaffolding of his life when he comes out."

Judge Kealey handed him a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He said: "I have seen glowing character references on your behalf and you suffer mental health problems, learning difficulties and have social anxiety. There is a different side to you, you are hard working and you have shown you are ashamed of your behaviour that day."

Armstrong, of Marlborough Road, will have to undertake a community order and will also be subject to a two-month curfew, between 10.30pm and 6am each day, and a restraining order.