Attacker threw hot coffee in victim's face, hurled racist abuse, stole his bike - then tried to climb out of dock when being jailed for the shocking incident in South Shields

An attacker who kept his freedom after he threw hot coffee into a man's face and hurled racist insults at him in a shocking street assault has now been put behind bars.

Lee Hepplewhite was given a community order last year after he soaked his former neighbour without warning as they passed each other at the market place in South Shields in 2016 then started throwing punches.The 32-year-old former cafe worker used shocking racist abuse towards the 23-year-old victim, who described himself as "mixed race", and stole the bike his victim had been riding.Hepplewhite has been back in the dock of Newcastle Crown Court to be sentenced for two thefts committed during the order and be re-sentenced for the attack.The serial criminal, who had engaged in just "some" co-operation with the probation service during the order, had to be restrained by guards after he kept interrupting the proceedings and appeared to try and climb out of the dock.He was taken away by security officers before Judge Sarah Mallett could tell him he would be sentenced to a total of 32 weeks behind bars.Judge Mallett said: "He was originally dealt with by a community order. The complainant was in the market place in South Shields when he was confronted by the defendant."He felt hot liquid on his face, which, it seems, was identified as coffee."The defendant threw two punches and the complainant got off his bike and backed off, fearing he would be hit further."The defendant demanded money and was racially abusive and used offensive language towards him."The court heard Hepplewhite, then of Wallington Grove, South Shields, took his victim's bike after the attack, which left him "sore and upset".Hepplewhite pleaded guilty to common assault and theft in relation to the attack.In December last year, Hepplewhite stole property from two parked cars, while he was on the order that required his good behaviour, and was convicted of theft.The property taken included an engagement ring and other high value property.Alec Burns, defending, said Hepplewhite has not been in any trouble this year.