A DRUNKEN teenager launched a homophobic attack on a gay couple as they walked down the street.

Aaron Jiva was 17 when he began taunting victim, Jackson Tattersall and his partner, Ben Fox, as they walked down Blackburn Road in Accrington town centre.

Jiva, now 18, and his friend, Jordan Moore, approached the young couple while they were leaving a supermarket, before Moore asked them whether they were in a relationship.

Prosecuting, Alaric Bassano told Preston Crown Court: "As they walked away they heard Moore shout 'oi, my mate wants to talk to you'.

"Then they saw five men running towards them. The defendant, Jiva, asked Mr Tattersall to take down his hood, which he did, with the defendant then singing to him 'do you want to build a snowman?'

"This was in relation to Mr Tattersall's hair, which was the same colour as a character from Frozen, and he perceived this to be homophobic.

"Mr Tattersall, who suffers with epilepsy and borderline personality disorder, said he could feel elements of his disorder coming on and his partner, Mr Fox, told the group of lads to leave him alone."

The court heard how the defendant then shouted, 'if you are after a fight I will give you one', before taunting the couple using words such as, 'gay', 'f*****', and 'I'll show you borderline personality disorder'.

Mr Bassano said: "The defendant then swore and shouted 'come on I will fight you', before removing a vodka bottle from his pocket and saying 'come on, I will bottle you'."

Mr Bassano told the court that Mr Tattersall feared for his life in the incident on the evening of May 1 2020 and could tell the defendant was under the influence.

Thinking it best to turn and face him rather than be attacked from behind, he was punched to the side of the head by Jiva, before the defendant landed another blow on his victim.

Mr Tattersall was then kicked in the back and fell and then was kicked in the body and head.

It was only when passers-by intervened that the attack stopped.

Jiva told police the victim had started the incident.

When shown CCTV footage of the attack, Jiva told police he was drunk and stoned and was not himself when in such a state; he also said he was not homophobic and had gay friends.

The court heard however that it took police six months to charge Jiva following his second interview in October last year, in which time the defendant turned 18 and therefore was required to be sentenced as an adult.

Mr Bassano said the police had been following up with further enquiries which included investigating three other suspects, but this was no excuse as to why they only decided to charge Jiva in April this year.

Jiva pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and was convicted of causing actually bodily harm at Blackburn Magistrates in July.

Mr Bassano added that as a result of the attack, Mr Tattersall had dropped out of college and had become extremely anxious and withdrawn, and was now afraid to visit supermarkets.

Defending Jiva, Julian King said his client had been through bouts of homelessness and did not have a stable family unit, but through social services intervention as a result of the offence, he had been given the chance to enrol at college and complete his maths and English GCSEs so he could go on to become a social worker and help people like himself.

Judge Richard Archer said: "This is in no way the fault of the defendant's, but if this incident had been dealt with at the time he would've been dealt with in a youth court and probably given a referral.

"In fact, it has worked to his advantage, as he has had that time to reflect, and embark upon turning his life around.

"It is Mr Tattersall who has been at a disadvantage here as he has had to drop out of education and I feel the system has failed Mr Tattersall more than it's failed the defendant."

Jiva, of London Street, Fleetwood, was handed a 12 month community order, 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.