A THUG shot a man in the face with a BB gun in a row over stolen tobacco.

Christopher Smith had the imitation firearm during a clash with two men outside The Friar’s Oak pub in Hassocks.

He shot one victim in the face, while his pal Alfie Thompson drove a getaway car dangerously and nearly ran over the second victim.

A third man brandished a golf club during the incident.

Lewes Crown Court was told that the row had started over stolen tobacco in a park in Burgess Hill a week earlier.

The incident left one victim so afraid that he has left the country.

Judge Stephen Mooney said it was a vicious incident that left the victims “terrified”.

He jailed Smith for two years and eight months for assault and possessing an imitation firearm.

Thompson was jailed for 13 months for affray and dangerous driving.

Jonathan Atkinson, prosecuting, said the incidents happened in May and June 2017.

Two men, who The Argus has chosen not to name, were in St John’s Parade, Burgess Hill when they realised their tobacco was gone.

A group of youths approached them and offered to sell them some “rollies”.

The men realised it was their own tobacco and said they would report it to the police.

There was a confrontation and the youths were seen leaving in red Ford Fiesta.

A week later in Hassocks, the victims saw the same car again outside the pub and three men got out.

Mr Atkinson said: “The men got out and were shouting and behaving aggressively.

“One man took out a golf club.

“Christopher Smith had a BB gun and attacked a man with his fists. One victim saw the gun pointing at him, he did not know if it was real. He was shot in the face and in his body.”

The three attackers fled back to the red car, driven by Alfie Thompson. The car hit the second man on the left as he dodged out of the way.

But Thompson and Smith were arrested after the vehicle was tracked by police number plate cameras.

Andrew Stephens, defending Smith, 20, of Field Close, Burgess Hill, said his client has had mental health problems but has grown in maturity since the attack, which he regrets.

Oliver Kirk, defending Thompson, 21, of Denham Road, Burgess Hill, said his client had shown remorse, and was previously the victim of a serious assault.

His client was “ill equipped” to cope with an immediate prison sentence, Mr Kirk said.

Judge Mooney jailed both men, but took time off the sentences because of how long it took the case to reach court.

“This was a frightening and vicious incident on two innocent men, terrified by your assault.

One victim felt so traumatised that he has been unable to stay in this country.

“Christopher Jones you fired at least three times.

“If a shot had gone into the victim’s eye, it’s likely he would have lost his sight.

“Alfie Thompson, you drove the co-accused away without any thought. You risked serious harm but that was a risk you were happy to take.”