A MAN who was involved in the violent build-up to the murder of an asylum seeker was praised by a judge yesterday.

Joseph Rutherford had shouted abuse during the incident between Iranian refugees and local people in Peel Street, Sunderland, last summer.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the 23-year-old joined in the violent clash which led to Steven Roberts, 18, stabbing Peiman Bahmani on August 28.

Rutherford denied affray during a three-week trial last month but was found guilty on the day Roberts received a life sentence for murder.

The court heard that after Roberts, who was branded a "thoroughly dangerous young man", produced the murder weapon, Rutherford tried in vain to bring the violence to an end. John Evans, defending, told the court: "Once he was aware of the knife he did intervene to discourage Roberts from using it and was pushing him away."

Mr Evans said Rutherford, who had no previous convictions, had tried to distance himself from the trouble and felt genuine remorse at the outcome.

Rutherford, of Gray Road, Sunderland, had already spent the equivalent of eight months behind bars on remand and was sentenced to a community rehabilitation order for two years yesterday.

Mr Justice Henriques told him: "The factor which above all is keeping you from custody is that at the critical moment when others would have demonstrated cowardice, you had the very good sense to restrain Steven Roberts."

As part of the rehabilitation order Rutherford will take part in a Probation Service-run course to steer him away from crime and those involved in criminal activity.

The judge said: "Sitting next to Steven Roberts as you did for three weeks, you would have noted what can go wrong with a human life and how desperate the long-term consequences can be."