A SELF-STYLED vigilante from Rowley Regis who broke an innocent 16-year-old's jaw in a case of mistaken identity has been branded a "thug."

Simon Hopkins, aged 24, attacked the teenager after accusing him of causing anti-social behaviour in his father's neighbourhood.

Hopkins, of Chilington Close, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm and avoided jail despite being slammed by Judge Nicholas Webb at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

He said: "You took the law into your own hands and you behaved as badly if not worse than the youths you had been complaining about.

"I have no doubt you are a bit of a thug and you were more than happy to get in the first punch and what a punch it was."

The victim, he added, had to undergo surgery to repair his fractured jaw which had to be wired up for nearly two months which was a "serious disability."

However, the judge ruled he was just able to allow Hopkins to keep his freedom as he told him he must pay the teenager who was knocked unconscious £1,000 compensation for his injury.

Hopkins was further given a 12 month jail term suspended for 2 years, ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work in the community and obey a 3 month curfew order between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

Hopkins, a father of two who previously had a spell behind bars for robbery, had approached a group of teenagers in his car and asked them if they had been tipping over rubbish bins.

The boy was frightened, he told Wolverhampton Crown Court, and after Hopkins began shouting the next thing he remembered was waking up on a driveway with his mouth bleeding.

After his arrest Hopkins told police his stepfather had called him to the area because a rowdy gang of youths were knocking over wheelie bins and it was his intention to confront the group.

Mr Anthony Bell defending said it was right to say there was no evidence the victim had done anything wrong but one member of his group admitted he had kicked a wheelie bin.

He said: "Hopkins went to see if he could help," said Mr Bell. "The public have to put up with a lot of anti-social behaviour.

"A number of people have written supporting Hopkins and they have expressed their general frustration their problems have not been resolved."

He described Hopkins as a "hard working family man" and added: "He knows he has done wrong and that he has to pay the price."