A man who punched a taxi driver and called him “a specky b*****d” has dodged jail.

Stephen Christie, of Cumnock’s Edgar Avenue, assaulted the man in an unprovoked attack and placed him in a state of fear and alarm.

Christie, 41, appeared at Ayr Sheriff Court last week and pled guilty to one charge.

Procurator Fiscal Cath White told the court that the complainer was dropping off Christie and another man on March 29. On leaving the car, Christie kicked the door open. He shouted at the driver: “This is for you, you specky b*****d” and punched him on the face.

Solicitor Euan Cameron said that his client suffered with alcohol problems and that following a period of abstinence, had started drinking again.

Mr Cameron said: “It was perhaps fortuitous for the complainer Mr Christie’s intoxicated state left him unable to have any coordination that his punch was largely ineffective, but that doesn’t detract for the appalling nature of this offence.

“At the end of the day it’s an irresponsible act. He makes no excuses for his actions and accepts responsibility for his behaviour.

“He remembers very little. He lost his walking stick during the night and the driver was reluctant to go back for it. Once again, that [the assault] was inexcusable.

“The offending behaviour has its background in alcohol abuse. Custody for him would frankly be a disaster for someone who has largely for years tried to get his life back on the straight and narrow.”

Sheriff Carole Cumminghame told Christie: “As your solicitor quite rightly pointed out it’s custody or a direct alternative and by a very narrow margin, alternatives to custody can be imposed today.”

Christie was sentenced to a Community Payback Order consisting of 12 months supervision and a programme to address his alcohol difficulties. He was also ordered to pay the taxi driver £300 in compensation and given a Restriction of Liberty Order for eight weeks prohibiting him from leaving his home between 8pm and 8am.