A 22-year-old man who carried out a “savage” attack on a 70-year-old he wrongly believed had sexually abused him when he was a child has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

Sentencing Rudie Larter at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge Emma Peters said the incident was “a clear case of mistaken identity” and said that when police officers later told Larter he had attacked an innocent man he had been genuinely shocked and remorseful.

She said that Larter had felt an “overwhelming sense of anger" when he saw a man he wrongly believed was the person who had been jailed for sexually abusing him when he was a child.

After attacking the man from behind he had continued to punch him while he was on the ground and had thrown a can at him.

Judge Peters said that when the man who had sexually assaulted the defendant was released from prison, Larter was told that he would be living around the corner from him - which she accepted would have been “enormously upsetting" for him.

She said Larter was right to feel it was a shame that no-one told him that his abuser had died but said it was never right for anyone to take the law into their own hands.

Larter, of Banham Road, Beccles, admitted wounding the victim with intent to do him grievous bodily harm in January last year.

He was given a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay the victim of the attack, who suffered a fractured cheekbone and a cut nose, £1,000 in compensation.

The innocent victim of the assault had been shopping in the B&M store in London Road North, Lowestoft, in January when he felt an “explosion in his head”, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

He came around on the floor covered in blood and believed he had been knocked unconscious, said Joanne Eley, prosecuting.

After his arrest, Larter said the victim had deserved what he’d done to him but when he was told by a police officer that he'd attacked the wrong person and that the man who had sexually assaulted him was dead, Larter said: “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe he has ruined my life again.”

Steven Dyble, for Larter, said his client waived his right to anonymity as a victim of sex abuse.

He described the case as unusual and said Larter had genuinely believed the victim was the person who had seriously sexually abused him many years earlier and had acted out of “raw anger".