Former footballer Chris Armstrong has narrowly avoided jail after punching a Tesco worker in the face and causing £2,000 worth of damage to a supermarket.
The 50-year-old ex-Tottenham striker was fined £180 and given an 18-month community order at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for common assault and causing criminal damage to the Chelsea store while drunk last summer.
Sentencing, District Judge Louisa Cieciora told Armstrong that she was “just about persuaded that this does not cross the threshold for custody” but warned him that any breach of his punishments would land him in jail.
Judge Cieciora also ordered the former Premier League player to complete 30 days of rehabilitation and a six-month alcohol treatment programme.
The father-of-two previously pleaded guilty to the charges over the July 18 incident at the Fulham Road Tesco store, which was caught on CCTV.
He appeared in court on Tuesday wearing a black suit and tie with a pale blue shirt, and his son and daughter sat in the public gallery.
Prosecutor David Burns told the court that Armstrong assaulted the shop’s security officer, Alex Boatang, by punching him in the face and kicking him while he was on the floor, after he was refused entry to the shop at 2.15am.
Armstrong had been trying to buy cigarettes, and after entering the shop he kicked over items including security scanners and baskets.
Describing the incident, Mr Burns said: “The security guard states there was an issue with the main entrance doors meaning they could not close.
“He heard a male shouting, he turned around and saw Mr Armstrong, who tried to push into the store.
“He confronted the security officer, punching him in the side of the face and causing him to fall to the ground.
“He then kicked him while he was on the floor.”
Defence lawyer McKenzie Webster said the former footballer was “remorseful” for his actions, which had been fuelled by an uptake in drug and alcohol use during the pandemic.
She also disputed the prosecution’s comment about Armstrong pushing into the store, saying he was initially “calm” and he walked in instead.
She told the court: “I would like to begin by expressing how remorseful Mr Armstrong is for his actions.
“He feels quite terrible for what he has done to the employee at the Tesco he has frequented for the last 14 years.
“He has written a letter of apology to the employee which he hopes has been passed on.
“Mr Armstrong is a 50-year-old father of two grown children who are in the court today.
“This behaviour is far outside his norm and he is not a violent individual.
“During the pandemic his drinking and drug consumption increased, and he was separated from his family.”
She added: “He has stopped taking drugs and reduced his alcohol intake since the incident.”
Judge Cieciora said: “There was certainly more than minor injury caused, it was certainly done out of anger about being refused entry to buy cigarettes, and £2,000 is quite a lot of damage to cause.
“On the one hand, you were under the influence of alcohol – that makes it more serious.
“You assaulted an individual who was there for public service.
“On the other hand, in your favour is the fact you have shown remorse and you have no recent previous convictions.
“I have read from your family that this is really out of character and you are generally a very positive influence on lots of lives.”
“I am just about persuaded that this does not cross the threshold of custody,” she added.
“You have got to use this opportunity to help yourself.
“If you find yourself back before me after having not completed any of these requirements or having offended further, you will face a jail sentence.”