A FORMER soldier wrongfully suspected of stealing a lighter at a birthday party has narrowly avoided jail after punching two other revellers.

Alan Davies attacked the partygoers – a man and a woman – at a 21st birthday party in the early hours of February 16, magistrates in Newton Aycliffe heard.

The fighting broke out when the 28-year-old, of Selbourne Terrace, Darlington, had let himself back into the party after being forced to leave.

Alan Davison, prosecuting, said a witness described the scene as “being like something from World War Three.”

He said: “He was punching out in the direction of anyone who came near him.”

The court heard the tension had arisen after a Zippo lighter went missing. Although it was found later, other partygoers had become suspicious of Davies as he was a stranger to most of them.

In mitigation, Liz McGowan said the situation escalated when Davies saw his friend lying unconscious on the floor.

She said her client did not remember much of the incident and became extremely distressed upon being told he punched a woman.

“He is extremely remorseful,” she said.

The court heard the defendant suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Army in Iraq, and as a result his drinking increased.

Davies admitted affray and magistrates sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 24 months.

He was also given a community order with 24 months of supervision, and ordered to pay £125 compensation to each of his victims and £45 costs.