A TEENAGER has narrowly avoided being immediately imprisoned after slashing a man's arm with a knife during a violent disturbance in a North East town centre.

Brandon Crompton became embroiled in a fight in Hartlepool when he clashed with another group of people following a dispute.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 19-year-old was backing away from the group until he saw his girlfriend being attacked someone else.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said the fight happened outside the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre at around 12.10pm on March 23 this year.

He said: "The defendant makes off from the area before he returns and has a knife in his hand.

"He is attacked by the other man with a walking stick and after being hit, there is a lash out that struck the victim and it is at that point that he stabs him.

"It's quite a nasty wound."

CCTV footage showed the teenager backing away before heading back to protect his girlfriend who was being attacked whilst on the floor.

Crompton, of Suggitt Street, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding and possession of a bladed article.

Ian Mullarkey, in mitigation, said his client was provoked during the incident but he accepted his reaction was disproportionate to the fight.

The barrister welcomed the judge's indication that his client would not be facing an immediate custodial sentence.

At the time of the incident, Cleveland Police confirmed that a 24-year-old man was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees with non life-threatening injuries following the fight.

He received treatment and was discharged.

The judge, Recorder Chris Smith, passed a nine month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

He said: "These are two serious offences, you had that weapon in Hartlepool town centre in the middle of the afternoon.

"There is clearly a history to this and the relationship you had with the others who were there.

"I have seen in the CCTV footage that you and your girlfriend were put under some pressure by those people."

Crompton was also made subject to an electronically tagged curfew between 8pm and 7am for three months.