Wisbech youth who launched racist attack after stealing pint avoids jail 'by skin of his teeth'

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A Wisbech youth who racially abused two men and attacked one of them while celebrating his 18th birthday has avoided jail after the judge gave him 'one final chance.'

Richard Wheeldon had turned 18 one day before going into the Hare and Hounds pub in Wisbech on January 4 this year after consuming 'a prodigious amount of alcohol' .

When he entered the pub he reached over the bar and poured himself a pint of beer without paying. He was then confronted about the theft, and after racially abusing the man, started to punch him in the face and kick him. A glass panel was broken in the fracas.

Later the manager of the pub also confronted him, with Wheeldon also shouting racial abuse at him.

He was later arrested near a kebab shop, and found with a quantity of cocaine in his pocket.

He appeared at Peterborough Crown Court yesterday (Thursday) after pleading guilty to racially aggravated assault, affray, theft, criminal damage and possession of a class A drug.

While his barrister, Michael Proctor, admitted 'there would be no surprise' if Wheeldon had been sent to prison, he urged Recorder Martin Oldham to give him a chance.

Mr Proctor said: "He is fully ashamed of his behaviour. He doesn't understand why he behaved in this way. He does not recollect the offences, but extreme drunkenness is not a mitigating factor."

The court was told Wheeldon had a short criminal record, with only one offence of possession of a knife in the past, along with a driving matter.

"Mr Proctor said: "He is 18 years old, he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, and has never committed these kind of offences before.

"He tells me he is not a racist and does not understand how he came to behave in this disgusting fashion.

"Although I would not be surprised, and he would not be surprised, if you sentenced him to an immediate custodial sentence, he is a young man, he has shown some insight into his behaviour, empathy with his victims and remorse.

"It is a cliche to say he is at a crossroads. Give him the last opportunity to show he can be a responsible man."

Recorder Oldham spent some time considering sentence, before telling Wheeldon he escaped custody 'by the skin of his teeth.'

Imposing a suspended sentence, Recorder Oldham said: "You were 18-years-old at the start of January. Usually people celebrate with great joy - you got absolutely smashed to the point you could not remember, went into town and engaged in behaviour courts deplore. What you did was shameful."

Wheeldon, of Seabank Road, Wisbech, was given a five month sentence for the racially aggravated assault, 14 months for affray, two months for theft, two months for criminal damage and two months for possession of cocaine, all suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of community service, a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement, and pay each of his victims £100 compensation.