A "paranoid" teenage customer who attacked a Burnley shopkeeper he was convinced was trying to sell him fake cigarettes has walked free from court.
The town's magistrates were told how depressed loner Asif Rehman, 19, had hit Waqas Chaundry in the face, using a can of energy drink as a weapon. He then went behind the counter of the corner store on Brougham Street and struck the victim twice more in the sustained violence, which was caught on CCTV.
Mr Chaundry, who ended up on the floor, injured, in agony and bleeding heavily, told police he had known Rehman "since he was a kid," and saw him almost every day. The victim said : "I have no idea why he carried out this unprovoked attack assault on me. I have no issues with him at all."
Rehman, of Gordon Street, Burnley, admitted assault by beating, on September 12. He was given a 12-month community order, with supervision and a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement. He was ordered to pay £100 compensation, a £10 fine, an £85 victim surcharge and £85 costs.
Mr Andrew Robinson, prosecuting, told the hearing that at about 4pm, the defendant took the energy drink to the counter and asked for a packet of cigarettes.
He continued : "The victim says he turned round to get them and as he turned back, without warning or saying anything, the defendant picked up the can and hit him in the face around the left eye. He was dazed and in a lot of pain.
"The defendant then came round the other side of the counter and started hitting him again in the face, still holding the can. The victim fell back onto the floor, put his hands to his face and realised he was bleeding from his left eye. He had bumps above both eyes and he was in great pain."
Mr Robinson added the victim went to hospital. He had suffered a cut above his left eye and lumps to his head.
Miss Michelle Flaga, defending Rehman, said: "He believed they were fake cigarettes. That's what led to him confronting the shopkeeper."
The solicitor said the shop owner had looked up at his CCTV, probably for his own protection. She continued: "Mr Rehman has difficulties. He is extremely paranoid. He took that as being something untoward. He didn't know what to do. He panicked, picked the can up and struck him in the face. He accepts he hit him two more times in the face."
Miss Flaga said the defendant's father had told her there were clearly concerns with regards to his son's mental health. She went on : "It's fair to say Mr Rehman has been attending his GP, is on medication for depression and is receipt of disability living allowance."
The solicitor told the court : "He doesn't get up generally until about 12 noon or one o'clock. He cleans himself and gets dressed, plays on his PlayStation, has a meal with the family and then sits in his room. He doesn't socialise. He has no friends and doesn't go out of the house."
Sentencing, bench chairman Mr John James told the defendant : "This was a very nasty attack. "He added :" We are not going to send you to prison today, but we did think about the possibility of that. This is a very, very serious matter. It was a sustained assault."