A 'COWARDLY' attacker has been spared jail so he can work to earn money to pay compensation to his victim.

Clinton Hofmann, 35, of Espen Close, Williton, was caught on CCTV repeatedly punching a pensioner in the face, knocking him to the ground, where he then kicked him and stamped on his upper body.

He launched the unprovoked assault after mistakenly believing the victim had attacked him a few weeks before the incident in High Street, Cullompton in September last year.

The shocked victim lost a tooth in the attack and later had three more extracted and had his dentures shattered. He is struggling to pay the £2,000 cost of replacements.

Hofmann, who had since moved to Kentisbeare, Devon, admitted assault occasioning grievous bodily harm and was jailed for 16 months suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to pay £2,000 compensation, do 25 days rehabilitation activities and 200 hours unpaid community work by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

The judge told Hofmann:"This incident was utterly disgraceful. I counted the number of blows struck in the very short time of ten to 15 seconds to be at lest 11, possibly one or two more.

"They were mostly punches to the face. I saw you repeatedly swinging punches at him and also kicks and one stamp. The kicks appear to have been to the body, rather than the head.

"When anyone attacks someone in the way you did, there is a risk of far greater harm, if not death."

The judge suspended the sentence so Hofmann can take a farm job to earn money to pay the compensation.

Robert Yates, prosecuting, said: "(The victim) left the pub and as he did so, he was approached by three males, the first of which was Hofmann, who proceeded to punch him to the head and kick him on the ground, all of which was seen very clearly by CCTV."

The victim, a recently retired grandfather, gave a statement saying he has lived all his life in Cullompton without experiencing such violence.

He wrote: "Cullompton should be a safe place to live without the risk of being assaulted. I feel that picking on a pensioner was a cowardly act of violence, which the town could do without."

Lee Bremridge, defending, said the background to the offence was an assault on Hofmann two or three weeks earlier which he thought his victim was involved in and which had resulted in him needing hospital treatment.

Mr Bremridge said Hofmann has used the 14 months since the incident to make changes in his life by reducing his drinking and abuse of drugs and staying out of trouble.

Hofmann is ashamed of the way he is shown to act on the CCTV and accepts there is no excuse or justification for it, said Mr Bremridge.