A MAN drinking at a relative’s flat “totally lost control” in a row with two neighbours and attacked both women, as well as punching a man who tried to intervene to calm matters.

Lee Berry took exception to a remark about another neighbour in the flat complex in Seaham and made a comment at which one of the two visiting women present laughed.

Durham Crown Court heard that at this Berry jumped up and struck one of them three times to the left side of the forehead.

Ashleigh Leach, prosecuting, said when the other woman tried to intervene he bit her on the forearm, breaking the skin.

When the man from a neighbouring flat entered to try to end the violence he, too, was struck by Berry, who knocked the victim’s glasses off his face in the process.

Miss Leach said one of the injured women suffered swelling and bruising about the eye and arm and required three stitches to her facial injury.

The woman who was bitten required a tetanus injection to her arm.

Berry was arrested at a farm on the outskirts of Seaham on June 9, last year, two days after the incident.

He was interviewed and made no comment throughout.

The 52-year-old defendant, of Dovedale Court, Seaham, denied two counts of assault causing actual bodily harm, and one each of common assault and threatening behaviour.

He was found guilty of the three assault counts at a recent trial before magistrates, who acquitted him on the threats charge.

Read more: County Durham couple jailed for 'overreaction' to dispute

Berry was committed to be sentenced at the crown court, which heard impact statements from both victims.

They are said to have suffered long-term anxiety as a result of the violence meted out on them and have feared bumping into the defendant during the pre-trial period.

One has still been unable to return to work more than a year after the incident while the other fears being in her own home.

Martin Scarborough, for Berry, said he put forward a "self-defence" case at the recent trial, an account which was rejected by the magistrates.

Mr Scarborough said his client is a hard-working man and provided a character reference from his boss at the drilling company for which Berry is yard foreman.

He said the assault was out of character and in the 12-months since there has been no further trouble.

Judge James Adkin questioned why a man with little on his record should get himself, “into a state like this.”

Mr Scarborough said the background was over differing views among those present of the man in the neighbouring flat.

A probation report read to the court stated that since the incident Berry, who was drinking regularly up to that time, has been teetotal.

Judge Adkin told Berry: “You were totally out of control and there has been a long-term impact due to the violence you used.”

But he accepted that the defendant poses a low risk of reoffending and is likely to comply with the terms of a suspended sentence.

Imposing a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Adkin ordered Berry to complete 180 hours’ unpaid work, and comply with a four-month 7pm to 7am home curfew.

He also ordered Berry to pay the female victims compensation of £750 and £500, respectively, in the next six months.

The judge added that if Berry failed to comply with those terms, “you and I will meet again and I will send you to custody.”

He added: “You have avoided custody today by a hair’s breadth.”

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