An autistic Fence Houses man who admitted his part in a vicious attack at a Metro station has been given a second chance.
Newcastle Crown Court heard David Wallby had been with a gang of girls who targeted a homeless man when they saw him drinking from a bottle of cider at South Shields Metro station and decided they wanted it.
In the "bullying" violence that followed, one of the girls tried to push the man down the station stairs before he was beaten and kicked.
When a nearby shopworker stepped in to stop the violence, the females turned on her.
The 55-year-old was knocked to the ground where she was also kicked and stamped on.
She told police after the shocking attack last April: "I was trying to defend a member of the public and these youths have turned on me.
"I cannot believe I was powerless to stop this happening to me.
"I felt defenceless."
The females involved in the sickening attacks were all dealt with by the youth court and given various non-custodial sentences.
Walby, of Ewe Hill Terrace, Fence Houses, admitted his part in the affray.
The court heard the 22-year-old was easily led and did not instigate the violence that day.
Judge Tim Gittins sentenced him to eight months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with programme requirements and a three-month night time curfew.
The judge told him: "This was a prolonged and sustained incident that lasted about ten minutes.
"Fortunately, remarkably, no serious injuries seem to have followed but undoubtedly they were left in pain, discomfort and no doubt terrified about what was going to happen to them and fear of it happening again.
"This was attacks on two people, that included kicks and stamps, on a vulnerable complainant and an innocent woman who sought to intervene to help him."
Judge Gittins said despite Walby being older and bigger than his co-accused, it was they who had started the trouble and he had joined in to try to please them.
The judge said input from the probation service would be better to prevent future offending than a prison sentence in Walby's case.
Paul Currer, defending, said Walby, who has since been the victim of a violent attack himself, had been drinking alcohol that day and is willing to work with officials who can help him.