A neighbours’ dispute got out of hand with a man launching bricks and a hammer at the next-door property, nearly hitting a young boy playing computer games in the front room.

Durham Crown Court that former friends fell out previously over the sale of a motor vehicle and since then defendant Jai Otterwell has been regularly abusive to the neighbouring family.

Philip Morley, prosecuting, said Otterwell’s neighbour was working in the garden on October 13, last year, when he was subject to further verbal abuse by the defendant.

It culminated in a short physical confrontation during which the neighbour punched Otterwell.

Mr Morley said that was the “trigger” for the offending that followed.

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Otterwell went back into his home, collected an axe and, standing in the curtilage of his address, made threats, saying he would kill his neighbour, put the windows out and burn his home.

Mr Morley said Otterwell  made a finger across the neck gesture as he uttered the threats.

Otterwell then left the garden without the axe and returned shortly afterwards, proceeding to throw bricks at the next-door house windows.

He also threw a hammer which smashed through the front window where his neighbour’s young son was showered with glass as he played computer games.

Mr Morley said, “mercifully” the boy suffered only cuts to his hand and face.

Police were called and recovered the axe from Otterwell’s kitchen, while his dna was recovered from the hammer.

When interviewed he issued a pre-prepared statement denying involvement in the incident.

But, at different stages in the court process, the 46-year-old defendant, of Bradyll Square, South Hetton, admitted charges of affray, making threats to cause criminal damage, making threats to kill, criminal damage and common assault.

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Impact statements were read to the court by members of the family living next door to Otterwell who spoke of their exasperation at the defendant’s behaviour, leaving them feeling unsafe in their own home.

The male householder said he immediately regretted snapping and punching the defendant, “letting my emotions get the better of me.”

Mr Morley told the court that Otterwell has 18 convictions for 24 offences, including possessing a bladed article.

Martin Scarborough, for the defendant, said there was nothing of a similar nature on the defendant’s record and he complied with all conditions imposed while on bail awaiting his court appearances, with no further incidents.

Judge Jo Kidd told Mr Scarborough she would draw back from imposing an immediate prison sentence, but she did put in place a five-year restraining order prohibiting Otterwell from contacting or approaching members of the neighbouring family.

She warned him: “On the face of it you are going to go back and live near this family.

“If there is any more bother you will be in breach of that order and I’ll reserve any breaches of the order to myself.”

Otterwell told the judge: “There won’t be.”

Judge Kidd told him: “This was disgraceful behaviour. You could have really hurt the child when you threw the hammer.”

She imposed a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, during which the defendant must attend a probation-run accredited programme for up to 26 sessions and take part in 17 rehabilitation activity days.

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Judge Kidd said she hoped such rehabilitative work will help to reduce the risk of further offending by Otterwell.

She added: “I’m giving you a chance.

“You get it wrong and you’ll be back in front of me, and you’ll be jailed for two years.”