A MAN who screamed and shouted at two people walking past his home before attacking them both has narrowly avoided being sent to prison.

Joe Spayne chased the couple before grabbing the woman by the throat and sticking his fingers in her mouth forcing the pair to seek refuge in neighbouring houses.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court Spayne carried out the attacks at around 8pm on April 23 last year when he aggressively confronted the pair as they walked along Lingfield Road, Yarm.

He said: “The defendant appeared at the door and was abusive and swearing at the couple. There came a point where he ran out of the house and appeared to be angry, he had his hand raised in a fist.

“He chased the man round the corner before returning and charging towards the woman and she describes being rugby tackled into a hedge by the defendant – he was screaming and swearing.

“She describes at one point the defendant pushing his fingers into her mouth, grabbing her tongue, grabbing her throat, and spitting on her cheek. The man returned, which appeared to distract Mr Spayne, and he chased the man again.

"The woman ran into a nearby house trying to summon help, she was described as banging on the window and asking for help from the householder. By this time the defendant had returned, he grabbed her by the hood, eventually she was allowed into the property and police were called."

Mr Dryden said the couple both sought refuge in nearby houses before the police arrived and Spayne was arrested while he was banging and screaming on the house where the woman was hiding and he was heard to be trying the handle of the door to get in.

The court heard how both victims suffered minor injuries to their face and neck during Spayne's attack.

The 48-year-old, of Lingfield Road, Yarm, pleaded guilty to one count of affray.

Michele Turner, in mitigation, urged the judge to follow the recommendations in her client's pre-sentence support due to his mental health issues after he was taken straight to hospital after his arrest.

Miss Turner added Spayne was responding well to treatment.

Recorder Benjamin Nolan QC sentenced Spayne to a three-year community order with attached recommendations to help address his mental health issues.

He said: "This was bizarre behaviour on your part which caused a very considerable degree of fear and distress to the victims.

"As I have already indicated, I am satisfied that your behaviour was driven by your mental health problems at the time, which has since been addressed by appropriate treatment and you appear to be responding to that treatment."

He was issued with a restraining order and 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

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