Axe-wielding ex-soldier avoids going to prison
A FORMER soldier who armed himself with an axe after years of harassment from youths has avoided jail after a judge was told he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Andrew Griffiths, 53, had been drinking heavily on Christmas Eve before he went to his home in the centre of Torrington and picked up the axe which he used for chopping firewood.
He confronted police after having a drunken argument with a pub customer in which he also pulled out a knife, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Griffiths, of Well Street, Torrington, admitted threatening behaviour and having an offensive weapon in a public place.
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He was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, and curfewed for three months.
Emily Pitts, for the prosecution, said Griffiths produced a small knife during his initial argument with a fellow customer of The Cavalier pub called David Jones.
She said: "For some reason Griffiths became agitated and told Mr Jones 'I'm not having it, Dave' and brandished a silver knife.
"Mr Jones replied he was not going to let him pull a knife on him and Griffiths replied that he would go and get something else.
"He went to his home nearby and in the meantime police arrived and he flagged them down.
"The officers were speaking to Mr Jones when Griffiths came out of his house. The officers asked him if he had a knife and he produced the axe from behind his back.
"He started brandishing it and told Mr Jones he was going to kill him.
"When he was arrested and cautioned he thanked the officers and said they were right to arrest him because otherwise he would kill the other man."
Miss Pitts said Griffiths had become angry after being in another pub where he was encouraging a young customer to join the forces but felt he was being mocked by other customers.
He then moved to The Cavalier where he thought Mr Jones was trying to start a fight with him.
He had been drinking for five hours before the incident and had drunk five or six pints.
He told police he had been the victim of harassment and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his military service.
Gareth Evans, for the defence, said letters from his doctor confirmed he was being treated for the condition and that he has been offered help by the charity Combat Stress.
Mr Evans said: "He has been the victim of harassment for five years by youths, some of whom are now in their 20s. In the past his garden shed has been set on fire and he has been very upset by suggestions he is homosexual.
"Alcohol was the trigger for this offence and he has abstained totally since this offence."
Mr Evans said Mr Jones was not one of those who had been harassing him but Griffiths felt under threat on the night in question.