A homeless man has been jailed for attacking another rough sleeper with a rock as they waited for the night shelter at The Freedom Centre in Barnstaple to open.

Steven Forster punched a woman who he thought had been mocking him before he went away and returned with a heavy rock hidden inside a sock.

He swung the makeshift weapon 'like a propeller' before lashing out and hitting victim Gary Hull so hard on the side of the head that it caused a four centimetre gash.

Mr Hull was taken to North Devon District Hospital and needed a precautionary brain scan after the attack outside the centre in Howard Avenue on November 22 last year.

Cornishman Forster has a long history of violent crime and drug dealing in Camborne, St Austell and Callington and moved to North Devon after being released from Channings Wood Prison, Newton Abbot, in 2017.

He was made homeless after being evicted from a flat in Ilfracombe and sheltered accommodation in Barnstaple, and had just started using the Freedom Centre.

Forster, aged 38, of no fixed address, admitted common assault, causing actual bodily harm, and having an offensive weapon and was jailed for 12 months by Recorder Donald Tait at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: "These were unnecessary assaults committed when you had too much to drink and felt slighted by the way people were speaking to you.

"You armed yourself with an offensive weapon and used it to strike Mr Hull. You did that quite deliberately and, by your own admission, wanted to cause more serious harm than you did."

Gareth Evans, prosecuting, said the incident happened at 6pm when a group of homeless people were waiting for the Freedom Centre to open.

Forster had been drinking cider and approached a woman and said 'I'm going to ******* hit you' before punching her on the side of the head, bruising her ear and neck.

Mr Hull intervened to stop him and Forster walked away before returning five minutes later. He had removed one sock and put a rock inside it.

Mr Evans said: "He was swinging it around like a propeller. He walked up to Mr Hull and when he got within about three feet, he struck him on the head with the rock. The victim, quite rightly, said it felt like being hit by a brick."

Forster told police he hit the woman because he she had been saying things about him and 'wound him up'. He said he hoped to give her a black eye and had intended to injure Mr Hull more seriously than he did.

Richard Crabb, defending, said Forster was upset about becoming homeless and felt other people had been mocking and belittling him.

He said: "He was in drink and in a bad place at the time. To his credit he readily admitted what he had done. Fortunately, the injuries were not as serious and might have been."