A TEENAGER who brandished a knife and trapped a social worker in a "terrifying and traumatic" stand-off has avoided prison after compassionate magistrates heard about the tragedies he had seen in his native Iraq.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wielded the blade after trapping a detective and the social services employee in his family home and he later admitted affray and was convicted of false imprisonment.

Bolton Youth Court took pity on the teenager after learning of his difficult background: his father had died during the Iraq War and the family fled their war-torn homeland for Britain via Eastern Europe.

There were cultural and language difficulties with their resettlement in Bolton, culminating in the intervention of social services, the court heard.

Chairman of the magistrates Christine McGawley said: "My colleagues and I feel this matter is very serious.

"It's a matter that would warrant custody. However, we consider an alternative to custody.

"As a young man of 17, you have probably seen, heard and witnesses sights and tragedies that most of us will never experience in our lives, and perhaps the nearest we would come to it will be watching news on television.

"We feel no amount of money would compensate the social worker or police officer for the trauma that they endured.

"In fact, it may just serve as a reminder of these circumstances and the fear they experienced on the day."

The court heard the Bolton Council social worker had accompanied Detective Constable Wayne Hagan to the boy's family home in Breightmet on June 9 to break the news that the boy's younger sister had been placed in care.

But as his mother broke down in hysterics, the boy took a chef's knife from the kitchen, locked the front door and held the blade to his own throat shouting: "Sister! Sister!"

The social worker was forced upstairs as he pointed the tip of the weapon at her and she discreetly dialled 999 without being able to speak to the operator.

She eventually managed to pass the teenager "while being under the threat of the knife" and fled out of the front door.

He was arrested by police officers responding to the silent emergency call.

Anthony Shimmin, for the defendant, said he never been in trouble with the law before.

He said: "The mother didn't know what was going on and she became excitable and distressed.

"That distress transmitted to the defendant himself and his little brother."

Speaking through an interpreter, the teenager told the court: "After the incident, days later, I realised that what I had done was wrong.

"But at the moment all I was thinking of was: My sister is gone and how I am supposed to bring her back?"

Prosecutor Tina Cunnane said of the social worker: "She described it as the most terrible moment of her life.

"She feared she would never see her children again and that she was about to be stabbed."

The social worker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said in a victim impact statement read to the court: "I an extremely shocked and scared by what I have gone through.

"I do feel like I have been traumatised by what has happened and I will affect me in my day-to-day life and in my professional work.

"I still can't quite believe what happened.

"I don't think it has really sunk in yet what could have happened."

Prosecutor Ms Cunnane said of DC Hagan who managed to escape out of the back door: "When he got outside someone said to him: are you OK?

"He said: I really thought was going to die. All I feel like I got to do is going and spending time with my wife and daughter as I truly felt I very nearly didn't get home today."

The magistrates sentenced the teenager to a 12-month youth rehabilitation order with supervision, a six-month7am-to-7pm electronically-monitored curfew, a 90-day programme requirement, a six-month residence requirement and 90 days' activity requirement.

They opted not to order him to pay court costs or compensation although a restraining order against the social worker was imposed.