A FAMILY was left terrified when a Malmesbury man approached their car with what they took to be a weapon in his hand.

Jonathan Skillern, 37, was spared a jail sentence after a judge said he was remorseful and there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

Swindon Crown Court heard the man had been in the centre of Malmesbury on August 21 when he had seen a van driven by someone known to him. A day or two earlier there had been an incident involving Skillern and those in the van, although the nature of that incident was not explained.

There was what Judge Peter Crabtree described as an exchange of gestures. An irate Skillern approached the van and began banging on a window with an “implement”.

He had not been aware that a six-year-old girl was in the car at the time. The occupants said they had been terrified by the attack, prosecutor Stuart Ellacott said.

Skillern, of Bremilham Rise, Malmesbury, pleaded guilty to affray. Charges of possession of an offensive weapon, threats to kill and criminal damage were asked to lie on file.

Judge Crabtree said: “This is a serious offence of affray, as you will well appreciate. A town centre, where quite a few others were about, because a vehicle had to stop in traffic. I have got no doubt it’s an offence that’s caused the family and their daughter considerable fear.”

He acknowledged Skillern had suffered from mental health issues and was remorseful for the impact on the young girl in the car. There was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

He was sentenced to an 18-month community order with 25 rehabilitation activity days and a one-month curfew.