A PERSISTENT offender who brutally attacked her girlfriend in front of her three children has narrowly escaped jail.

Gemma Payne had previously admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm for the drunken attack in which she punched the victim in the face several times, and broke her finger.

The 25-year-old of Britannia Road, Worcester, returned to Worcester Magistrates Court on Thursday to learn her fate, and after a 10-minute deliberation – with Payne waiting anxiously – chairman of the magistrates bench, Gareth Thomas, returned and reassured her she would not be going to custody.

Magistrates had been reminded of the details of the horrifying attack, that took place between June 27 and June 28 last year. Payne shouted and knocked on the door of the victim’s home, before barging in while the children were in bed.

Mark Hambling, prosecuting, told magistrates how there was then an escalation of an argument. “This leads to, on at least a couple of occasions, where the victim was punched to the head,” he said. “They are not mild punches.”

The children were woken up and Mr Hambling said it led to one of the children coming between the pair, stopping the attack.

The court heard earlier this month that the entire incident lasted around three hours, and Payne was also described as throwing shoes and shots of alcohol at the victim.

During the attack the victim suffered a "very slight fracture to her hand" – the bone leading to her little finger (the metacarpal).

Payne told police she had no recollection of carrying out the attack because she was so drunk.

As the defendant has a series of previous convictions for violence including an assault on an emergency worker, and aggravating features included Payne’s consumption of alcohol and the presence of children, magistrates earlier this month ordered for a pre-sentence report to help determine their sentence.

Barry Newton, defending, said the complainant had withdrawn support for the prosecution in October, but the Crown proceeded with the case without her.

“Since the incident she has abstained from alcohol,” Mr Newton said of Payne. “I have represented her over a number of years. It is obvious this is a change in her attitude to alcohol and a determination to stop.

“Since June last year she has had my advice she could go to prison – eight months to wait for her fate.”

Mr Newton said there had been no contact between the victim and Payne, but said the victim had indicted she wanted to rekindle their relationship.

In an unusual scene, the defence barrister provided the victim personal statement, which said: “That night in June is not the Gemma I know and love. What Gemma did scared me and my children, however that is not the Gemma I know.”

Magistrates gave Payne 16 weeks in jail, suspended for 18 months, and handed her a community order which includes a thinking skills programme and rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Mr Thomas said: “We see it as laudable you have already tried to sort it (excess drinking) out. We believe you need greater support to make sure this doesn’t happen again, because it does ruin your life.

"We decided it had (crossed the custody threshold) because this was a violent offence. I know you don’t remember it. Somebody was seriously injured and horrifyingly it was in front of children. You appreciate how dreadful that is. We decided to suspend after input from probation, and because of the actions you have taken already. Co-operate with probation otherwise you will be back here again, we don’t want that.”

He added that Payne must also pay costs of £185 and a victim surcharge of £128, a total of £313 that was added to £755 of outstanding fines she already owes the court, being paid at a rate of £20 a month.

READ MORE: Worcester woman broke her girlfriend's finger in front of kids

READ MORE: Worcester woman Gemma Payne attacked police officer