THREE men enjoying a night out in Middlesbrough were confronted by a Stanley knife-wielding would-be robber.

Jason Defty got more than he bargained for when he targeted the three revellers near to the Empire nightclub in Middlesbrough.

Instead of handing over the money and phones that he demanded, the group, which included a serviceman, stood up to Defty and chased after him when he did a runner when police arrived at the scene.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the group thought Defty was a harmless, homeless man as he stumbled towards them.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said the mood changed when he brandished his knife at demanded they hand over cash and phones in the early hours of November 16.

She said: "The defendant told police that he was only asking the group for a light and denied he had tried to rob them at knifepoint."

The Northern Echo:

Middlesbrough's Empire nightclub. Picture: GOOGLE

Defty, who had more than 20 convictions for 50 offences, had previously for an aggravated burglary after he threatened a woman with a kitchen knife while wearing a balaclava, she added.

Defty, of Coltman Street, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to three charges of attempted robbery and a further charge of possession of a bladed article.

Nigel Soppitt, mitigating, on the night it was clear that his client had been drinking and taking drugs.

He said: "He was in something of a state, they took the view that he was homeless and they thought he was harmless but that changed when he produced the knife."

Judge Howard Crowson told the defendant that he had unenviable record of burglary and served four years for an aggravated burglary with an iron bar.

He sentenced Defty to three years in custody for the three attempted robberies. He also gave him an additional 12 month concurrent sentence for possession of a knife.