A THUG who headbutted a policeman walked free from court.

William Clay was “freaking out” because of his mental health difficulties after waking up to find his flat on fire in Warmdene Road on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old was treated by paramedics, but became agitated after police told him to move away.

When they tried to calm him, he shouted: “Try some of this.”

He then headbutted PC Andrew Trotter, who only just managed to move his head to avoid a serious injury.

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Clay, who has 64 previous convictions for more than 200 offences, appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court where he was given a conditional discharge.

He admitted the charge of assaulting a PC during in the course of their duty.

Firefighters, paramedics and police were called to Warmdene Road at lunchtime on Wednesday.

The road was closed while firefighters tackled the blaze, and Clay was one of two patients taken to hospital after breathing in smoke.

Jeremy King, prosecuting, said: “Police were called and on arrival he was outside the block of flats.

“He became abusive towards other residents, and police were concerned for his well being as he had been treated for smoke inhalation.

“The officers followed him across the road, and when they spoke to him he was shouting and swearing.

“Then suddenly he told them ‘try some of this’ to PC Trotter, he lunged over and headbutted the officer.”

Oliver Mackrell, defending, said that Clay suffers from post traumatic stress, and found himself losing control when he awoke in the fire.

Mr Mackrell said: “He fully appreciates how serious this situation is. He has a terrible record with more than 200 offences, he is a somewhat prolific offender.

“Many are when he was drunk and living on the streets in pretty desperate circumstances.”

He said that since Clay had been living in Warmdene Road, he had turned his life around in the past two years, but said the fire put Clay’s post traumatic stress “in overdrive”.

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Mr Mackrell added: “Police were trying to calm him, but unfortunately he freaked out. Just a few minutes later he was apologising, which shows a level of remorse.”

Clay receives disability living allowance, because of damage to his spinal chord.

Magistrate Mark Linford sentenced him to a conditional discharge for the next year, but told Clay to pay £50 in compensation to PC Trotter.

Mr Linford said: "Normally we take the offence of assaulting a police officer very seriously. You have been here before and been sent to prison for it.

"We have looked at your record, it is unimpressive, but for the past two years it has been clean. There were distressing circumstances in this case. You snapped for a moment, but were immediately remorseful.

"So we are going right outside our sentencing guidelines. If you manage to continue your excellent work and stay out of trouble, then this assault will be wiped in a year's time.

"We are putting a lot of faith in you, as we are impressed by how you have been over the past two years."

Clay must also pay £85 court costs and a victim surcharge of £20.