AN alcoholic who sexually assaulted a young woman before getting involved in a brawl with a delivery driver has avoided being immediately imprisoned.

Martin Richardson became abusive to the woman as he asked a number of inappropriate questions before grabbing her breasts, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The 35-year-old was dragged away by a friend before he turned his attentions to a van driver and started abusing him.

The court heard how the alcoholic launched an unprovoked attack on the man who was forced to seek refuge in a Subway shop in Darlington town centre.

Again the defendant’s friend tried to intervene and pull him away from the van driver.

The court heard how the van driver told jurors during Richardson’s trial that he doesn’t know for sure whether he was hit or not but said there was the fear that he would be.

Robert Mochrie, in mitigation, said he client was living rough at the time of the offence following the breakdown of his long-term relationship.

“He said he went over the top in his behaviour,” he said. “This was born out of alcoholism and to the extent he can’t remember what happened.

“There will be a glimmer of truth in what he has said but I'm sure there will be a lot of things that happened that day that he won’t remember at all.”

Mr Mochrie said his client had been in work until he told his employer about his conviction for sexual assault.

Richardson, Bramall Lane, Darlington, was found guilty of sexual assault and assault by beating during a trial at the same court.

Judge Deborah Sherwin said Richardson had a history or low-level violence and being drunk and disorderly as she sentenced him to six months in prison, suspended for two years after he ' grabbed her breasts and squeezed them'.

She said: “It is quite clear from the pre-sentence report that you realise that you have a problem with alcohol and it is to your credit that you have joined Alcoholics Anonymous."