(REUTERS) A man who punched a 96-year-old war veteran, leaving him blind in one eye, during an unprovoked attack on a tram in south London, escaped jail on Monday.
Stephen Gordon, 44, a paranoid schizophrenic, was sentenced to a three-year supervision order at Croydon Crown Court after the judge ruled that treatment rather than jail would be "in the best interests of the public in the future".
The incident occurred after Gordon tried to push past the elderly man, who requires two walking sticks and was standing in the aisle of a busy tram travelling near Croydon on December 14 last year.
As he did so, Gordon's hat was brushed off his head. He retaliated by calling the elderly man a "bastard" and then punched him in the face.
He was arrested in January this year after the incident was captured on CCTV and found guilty at trial of causing grievous bodily harm.
"This was a particularly nasty attack on an elderly man who was obviously very frail and was physically not able to defend himself," said Detective Constable Darren Stenning of British Transport Police.
"The blow to the victim's head caused serious injury, which has resulted in the victim losing sight in one eye. And unfortunately since this assault, the victim's health has deteriorated and he now resides in a residential care home."