A former charity worker bit his former girlfriend's face "like a dog" then claimed in court it had been a romantic gesture.
Kieran Gillan admitted he had bitten the woman - after telling her he loved her - but insisted "he was being romantic and went a bit too far".
Newcastle Crown Court heard the attack happened at the victim's home in Jarrow in May, when the 19-year-old turned up unexpectedly.
Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court: "The defendant walked in the room and she said 'what are you doing'.
"He said 'I love you' and went to kiss her. She pushed him away.
"He then pushed her head against the wall and she states he then 'bit me on the left side of my cheek. He latched on like a dog, which caused severe pain and discomfort'."
The victim, who was left with a red mark on her cheek, told police "I was crying, scared and upset and feared for my safety".
The court heard the woman's screams alerted a neighbour, who came to help.
Gillan, of Stanhope Road, South Shields, claimed the neighbour was armed with a hammer during a violent confrontation that left the man with a bite mark on his cheek.
The court heard the trouble with the neighbour spilled out into a nearby pizza shop, where Gillan headbutted him three times.
The victim needed nine stitches to a cut to his head.
Gillan admitted an assault charge in relation to the neighbour.
He also admitted an assault on his girlfriend but submitted a basis of plea claiming what happened was consensual and he had been being romantic.
His plea basis was rejected by prosecutors and a trial of issue was held at the magistrates' court, where the victim had to give evidence against him.
Mr Pallister said: "He pleaded guilty on the basis he was being romantic and went a bit too far in biting her on the cheek.
"The district judge rejected the defendant's basis and found the case proved."
Judge Deborah Sherwin sentenced Gillan, who has never been in trouble before, to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, with programme requirements.
The judge told him: "The district judge found this to be a proper assault, rather than any kind of romantic interlude that had gone too far or anything like that and as part of it you bit her on the cheek, causing reddening."
Graeme Cook, defending, said Gillan had moved to the North East to be near family after being brought up in the south and would stay away from the woman in future.