A YOUNG man who threatened a Bolton shopkeeper with a knife has avoided jail.

Dane Fort, of Trawden Avenue, Smithills, had a ‘verbal argument’ with Faruk Bhaji, shopkeeper at Bennetts News on the corner of Bennetts Lane and Church Road, before being “forced” out of the shop around midday on January 24.

Fort’s brother forced him to apologise to Mr Bhaji later. But 19-year-old Fort soon returned to the shop, carrying a short knife, said prosecutor Alistair Reid.

Bolton Crown Court heard the argument continued with Fort pushing items off shelves while shouting and screaming at Mr Bhaji. Fort left after the police were called.

Police went to Fort’s home where he co-operated with officers, showing them the knife, which has a three inches long blade. Fort was subsequently arrested and placed on bail.

Mr Reid said on September 11, Fort went back to the shop, swearing and gesturing at Mr Bhaji,

Fort returned again on September 17, when Mr Bhaji was outside the shop locking up, around 6.50pm.

Mr Reid added: “He appeared behind him saying ‘what did you say to the police?’. He (Mr Bhaji) didn’t say anything to him and backed away up the side of the shop with the defendant following him. Fort swore again at Mr Bhaji and was later arrested by police.

Later Mr Bhaji told police he felt “very scared” as he is often on his own in the shop and “could be attacked at any point”.

Claire Brocklebank, defending, said Fort had entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity and fully co-operated with the police by showing them the knife used.

“He is not someone who has been in and out of trouble, he’s had a blameless life to this point,” Ms Brocklebank said.

“He was stupid to get involved and should have stayed away,” she added.

Sentencing Fort, Judge Tom Gilbart, said: “You burst into the shopkeeper’s place of work and showed him you were carrying a knife and pointed it at the victim.”

The judge told him, after recounting how Fort had returned twice more, that he “should be ashamed” of his conduct.

The court heard Fort suffers with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and that his father had died when he was 15, affecting his mental health.

Judge Gilbar added: “These are utterly disgraceful offences. What you did had a real effect on the victim and what you did was extremely serious.”

The judge said he was sentencing Fort by a “narrow margin” to a suspended sentence.

Fort was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for 24 months after he admitted to threatening Mr Bhaji with a bladed article. He also pleaded guilty to intimidating a witness.

A restraining order was also imposed for five years, prohibiting Fort from contacting Mr Bhaji or going to Bennetts News.