A FORMER builder who punched a teenager after a row with another moped rider has been spared jail.

James Morgan, 49, of Maine Crescent, Rayleigh, was confronted by a group of up to ten youngsters just minutes after a 16-year-old pulled out in front of his car and made a rude gesture towards him.

Mr Morgan, who suffers from social anxiety, arthritis and slipped discs in his back, stuck two fingers up in return.

Southend Magistrates' Court heard the teenagers surrounded him as he was parking in a disabled bay in the Websters Way car park, Rayleigh.

Mr Morgan noticed the rider from the altercation had joined a larger group of youths.

Stephen Sparks, prosecuting, told the court: “The rider had got off his moped and squared up to him. He said ‘leave us alone, we are a bunch of 16-year-olds.’

“Another teen then pushed Mr Morgan away from him and he states that he did this to protect his friend.

“Mr Morgan then came back towards him and punched him on the nose, causing him a lot of pain.

“He punched him again on the nose and they both ended up on the floor.

“The defendant stood up and then punched him again.”

Morgan denied two counts of assault, but was found guilty following a trial in September.

A second victim claimed compensation for damage to his jacket, worth £250, his helmet, worth £140, and his steering lock, worth £140.

The first teen did not make a statement to police or give evidence during the trial.

Morgan spoke up during the sentencing hearing, telling the court: “The rider came out of a side street and nearly went under my wheels. I had to swerve to miss him.

“Then he turned around and goaded me.”

Roger Nield, mitigating, said Morgan had been taking strong painkillers on the day.

He said: “It was a very minor incident that was not described as road rage by the Crown, that has simply come from Mr Morgan’s account.

“Depending on whose account you believe there was up to ten youths circling him. Most were wearing crash helmets.

“That, no doubt, increased his social anxiety.”

Morgan was handed two six-week prison sentences, suspended for 12 months.

He was ordered to take part in 30 hours of activities with the probation service and pay £150 in compensation.