A MAN who brandished a knife near a County Durham school while threatening to cut the throats of onlookers has been jailed.

Lee Charlton, from Consett, was heavily intoxicated when he was caught on video waving the knife around close to Consett Academy, shouting "I'll cut your f***ing throats."

Durham Crown Court heard the incident happened at about 3.30pm on Friday, June 28 last year, at the end of the school day.

Ian West, prosecuting, said Charlton had been arrested a short time later, when police found a knife in the pocket of his coat.

Charlton, who admitted to possession of a bladed article in a public space, was due to be sentenced in September but it was delayed to allow him to seek treatment for his addiction.

However, Judge Jonathan Carroll said Charlton had failed to do the required rehabilitation course and jailed him for 12 months.

The 42-year-old, of Beverley Terrace, who was late to his scheduled court hearing, had 13 previous convictions, for 18 offences, though none of them had involved a knife.

The court heard he had taking methadone to curb his addiction.

Jessica Heggie, mitigating for Charlton, told the court that he had admitted his guilt at the earliest opportunity and added that he had made enquiries about getting treatment from Free The Way, in Seaham.

She said: "The defendant has made real efforts to turn his life around, not withstanding the obstacles and challenges he has faced in recent months."

She added: "It is clear this defendant's offending behaviour stems from addiction. He seemed to be moving in the right direction. Addiction led him to commission these offences and when he is substance free he can lead a pro-social life."

Sentencing him to 12 months in prison, Judge Carroll said: "In an ordinary view, someone committing that sort of offence should expect a custodial sentence, especially when there is a good deal of concern about the misuse of knives in the street.

"I was prepared to allow you to have a deferred sentence so you could engage with Durham Recovery Action. This is a well established institution that is able to assist people with drug addition and work through it.

"As you were exhibiting signs if being motivated to change, it seemed to be in the public interest to give you that opportunity.

"On September 30 you provided a sample free from drugs. That was the only clean drug sample you have submitted. On the 28th October you submitted one which was fake. You have largely missed everything else.

"When on November 25 you said you would like to do it, the probation officer said it was too little, too late.

"It's inconceivable that I would give you a second opportunity."