AN ALLEGED thief punched a police officer then ran into an automatic door as he tried to flee from Buzz Bingo, a court heard.

Staff at the Greenbridge hall called police on February 2 last year after recognising Robert Barton from an image circulated by bingo bosses.

The 38-year-old and another man were suspected of earlier stealing from an ATM at a Buzz Bingo hall in Feltham. Their image had been circulated by the chain, prosecutor Alec Small told Swindon Crown Court.

They were detained by staff at the Swindon hall. PC Gareth Ivett arrived with other officers after they were called by hall staff.

Mr Small said: “Pc Ivett and other officers approached. He then said to the two men, ‘hello guys, can you both come outside with me, please?’”

Barton responded by charging past the officer, who grabbed at the escapee. The defendant then swung for the constable, hitting him in the face and leaving a small cut.

The defendant came undone as he tried to make good his escape. Mr Small told the judge: “Mr Barton ran for the exit but fortunately he was running too quickly for the automatic doors to open for Mr Barton to make his escape.”

The court heard the defendant was on three separate court orders at the time. One – a suspended sentence – was just eight days short of its expiry date when he was arrested at the bingo hall.

Cathryn Sutcliffe, mitigating, said her client was extremely remorseful and had written letters to the judge and the officer he had punched.

She told the court: “When Mr Barton was confronted with the CCTV footage he described himself as being incredibly ashamed of his actions. He stated he never deliberately would have punched someone in the face.” He admitted acting recklessly, striking the officer as he tried to get away.

Barton was said to have struggled in the past with drug addiction, although he was now clean. He suffered from poor mental health. He was attending college.

He planned to sell a pair of wireless headphones he’d recently acquired free with a new phone in order to pay compensation to the officer.

Sentencing Barton to 24 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 20 months, Recorder Elisabeth Bussey-Jones said: “I have seen the letter from the chief constable of Wiltshire who explains that staff such as PC Ivett are working tirelessly to protect the public and they absolutely deserve to be able to go around their business without the fear of being assaulted themselves, which is precisely what happened on this occasion.”

She ordered Barton pay £200 compensation to the police officers and complete a three month curfew, 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days and the thinking skills programme. He was fined £60.

Barton, of Iliffe Street, Southwark, pleaded guilty to assaulting an emergency worker. He also admitted breaching court orders. The court heard he had 69 offences on his record.