POLICE who arrested a man at the scene of a large town centre disturbance found he was armed with a knuckleduster.

Bolton Crown Court heard how 23-year-old Adil Rafiq told them: "It's for my own protection."

But, giving him a suspended prison sentence, the Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh commented: "Possession of an item like that, particularly present at the scene of a public disorder such as this, gives rise to a real risk of an escalation in the violence that is taking place."

Duncan Wilcock, prosecuting, told how, at 5.40am on June 29, 14 police officers were called to Bradshawgate where there were 30 to 40 men were fighting and a man was lying unconscious in the road.

He added that most people complied with police instructions to disperse, but Rafiq did not.

"Each time he was directed to go away he would refuse and shouted towards the officers," said Mr Wilcock.

"At one point he spat food he had been eating towards the officers."

When he refused to leave again he was arrested for breach of the peace, handcuffed and searched.

"In the right pocket of his jeans was a metal knuckleduster," said Mr Wilcock.

At the time Rafiq was on bail for another offence and he pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon.

The court heard that Rafiq works as a part time milkman.

Judge Walsh sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and ordered him to be electronically tagged for 12 weeks and made subject to an 8pm to 6am curfew.

He was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.

"If you fail to do that the likelihood is you will be going to custody," the judge told him.