A man carried out a vigilante-style attack on someone he believed was a drug dealer in front of shocked staff in a convenience shop.
Anthony Rowbotham, 45, took the law into his own hands when he launched a sustained attack on the man inside Costcutter, in Chatham Road, Hartlepool.
Rowbotham approached the man and said “we don’t want your kind around here” before headbutting and repeatedly punching the victim.
Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court: “He cut the bridge of his nose and at one point [the victim] is effectively bent over the counter when the defendant comes back and repeatedly punches him and effectively gets him in what looks like a headlock.
“We submit this was a sustained and repeated assault.”
The assault on February 26 took place in front of two female members of staff who tried to intervene.
The victim suffered a cut and bloody nose but did not require medical treatment.
Miss Atkinson said when Rowbotham was questioned by police he claimed the victim had been selling drugs in the local community.
She said: “In essence he said he just stumbled upon [the victim]. He accepted punching him in the head.
“He said he wanted him to leave the shop and the town.”
But the court heard there was no evidence to support Rowbotham’s claims.
And the judge said there was “a degree of hypocrisy” about what he did as he had previous convictions for possession of drugs and production of cannabis from 2008.
Rowbotham, of Oakley Gardens, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm at a previous hearing.
Duncan McReddie, mitigating, said: “Within his own limitations he did what he thought was the best for the local community.
“He now accepts unequivocally that direct action of that type is not community activism and it’s not to be tolerated by these courts.”
He added Rowbotham was a hard-working family man who supports six children, and runs a youth football team to help steer young people away from trouble.
Recorder of Middlesbrough Judge Simon Bourne-Arton said: “It wasn’t completely unprovoked and that reason was a misjudged sense by you to take the law into your own hands.”
Rowbotham was given six months prison suspended for two years and slapped with a restraining order not to contact the victim or enter the shop for five years.