A TEENAGER who hit a man in the back of the head with a hammer outside a homelessness centre has been spared jail.

Adam Gardiner, now of Windmill Road, Oxford, had been living at The Foyer in Banbury at the time of the attack on a 34-year-old man in December 2017.

He was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and one count of possessing an offensive weapon.

Sarita Basra, prosecuting, told the court the 19-year-old had been with a group of young people inside the centre when the man entered.

She said: “Two approached him, one of which was the defendant, and seemed pleasant enough but suddenly became aggressive and told him to apologise, which he did, though he did not know what he had done wrong.”

Ms Basra said he was then attacked by the whole group of seven or eight youths who ‘punched and kicked’ him on the floor.

He fled outside and CCTV footage was shown of the group following him before Gardiner, wearing a blue hoodie, swung a small hammer at his head. The barrister said when interviewed, he said he had the hammer ‘for protection’.

Graeme Logan, in mitigation, said Gardiner had ‘fallen in with the wrong crowd’ and since the incident had moved to a new home in Oxford and become a father.

He was given 16 months in prison for the assault charge and six months for the possession of an offensive weapon, both to run concurrently. Judge Ian Pringle told Gardiner if this had been January ‘that is all I would had to have said’ but that references and a pre-sentence report from the probation service had convinced him to suspend the sentence for two years. He added: “The transformation in the last 10-12 months has been quite remarkable. You have a chance at 19 to make something of yourself. If you went to prison it would, I fear, undo all that.” Gardiner was also ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.