THREE men who were remanded in custody following a “disgraceful” attack have been given suspended sentences by a judge who recognised that they were provoked by racial abuse.

Frunza Sebastiar, 25, Gheorghe Belehuta, 24, and Viorel Pricope, 22, each admitted one charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, in relation to an incident in Botchergate, in the early hours of October 22.

But after hearing the circumstances of the case His Honour Judge Peter Davies decided they have been “racially abused continuously” before they launched their attack.

The three men were sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday, after spending four weeks in prison because they were refused bail at the city’s magistrates’ court.

They were each given 16-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, and were also ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work.

CCTV footage shown in court shows two men, Christopher Lowe and Shaun Bainbridge, gesturing towards the trio.

The defendants run down the street and launch their attack, punching both men repeatedly. The group can then be seen attacking a man - Mr Lowe - “who was using his hands and arms to protect his face” as the men punched and kicked.

Witnesses said they heard abuse being shouted at Mr Lowe.

They were all under the influence of alcohol, the court heard.

Passing his sentence, Judge Davies, said: “You all co-operated with the police investigation, nevertheless the magistrates regarded you as a bail risk and remanded you in custody so you have spent the last four weeks in custody and I have no evidence that you have experienced custody before.

“It is a disgraceful assault - punching and kicking a crowed man who was unable to defend himself.

“Normally prison follows but there is no doubt, and I’m satisfied, that you were provoked.

“You didn’t start this altercation and you were racially abused continuously.”

As sentences around racial abuse are serious, he said being the victim of racial abuse was significant in their mitigation.

“That is not to say I approved of what you did. Despite provocation you should have walked away and reported it to the police, then those two people would have been arrested and they would be in the dock and I would be sending them to prison.”

Judge Davies added his disappointment in that the two men who were attacked didn’t give more time to the police.

“I strongly deprecate persons who refuse to co-operate with the police,” he said. “Mr Lowe and Mr Bainbridge should be criticised for their failure to do so and I’m satisfied the only reason they did fail to assist is because they knew they were racially abusive.”