A SHERIFF has warned Sauchie man Joshua Barnes to expect a prison sentence should he appear before the courts again.

The 24-year-old was seen trading punches with another man during an early morning brawl and charged with committing a breach of the peace.

However, with a number of assault charges on his record, Barnes came within a whisker of receiving a custodial sentence when he appeared at Alloa Sheriff Court on Thursday, March 9.

The fight, on Mill Street, Alloa, took place in plain view of patrolling police officers on January 8 this year.

Barnes, said to have been drinking heavily on the night in question, was also out on bail at the time, having been before the the town's court just a few months previously.

Last week, defence agent Toni Pentecost admitted her client often found trouble when he drank to excess, but denied he had a dependency on alcohol.

Fiscal depute Graham McLachlan described the incident to the court and said: "At around 2am, two police officers on foot patrol at the locus observed two men who had just come out of a licensed premises.

"The officers seemed to think that there was some kind of animosity between the two men and kept a close eye on them.

"A fight then breaks out between the two and police officers report that they were standing in the street trading punches."

The police then broke up the fight with both men arrested and charged.

Ms Pentecost then told the court: "Clearly, your lordship may have concerns arising from the content of the report."

This prompted Sheriff Wyllie Robertson to add: "Not just the content of the report, but his record."

Barnes' lawyer responded by saying: "He does accept that he has a record but all of his previous convictions have been committed when he has been heavily under the influence of alcohol.

"Unfortunately, when he drinks to excess, he reacts badly to small disagreements. He is not someone who goes looking for trouble.

"That is no excuse, and he is not seeking to minimise his responsibility. However, this was not an assault, it was a fight."

Staying his hand, Sheriff Robertson told Barnes: "You have a record which causes you a difficulty. And your previous assault convictions are causing the court some concern.

"In the past, you have been given orders that are clearly alternatives to custody. I see one which appears to be an indictment matter for violence, for which you were given a non-custodial order.

"You are getting to the point where the only appropriate disposal from the court will be custody.

"I'm not going to do that today, but you should be aware: You are on the very cusp of going to prison."

Barnes, of Gartmorn Road, was handed a community payback order, compelling him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work over the next eight months.

He will also be subject to supervision for the next 18 months.

Sheriff Robertson added: "I should add, if you fail to comply with this order, the likelihood is that you will be arrested and jailed."