A prisoner due to be released next week has been told to see the new year as a fresh start after finding himself in court several times over the last few months.

Damien Ian Marsden, 35, of Lon Eithin, Trehafren, Newtown, appeared via video link at Welshpool Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to threatening another man while holding a hammer.

He was given a suspended sentence, meaning his planned release on Friday, December 29, will still happen.

Helen Tench, prosecuting, told the court the incident happened on Plantation Lane in Newtown on June 7, before Marsden was imprisoned in October.

She said witnesses described Marsden’s car screeching to a halt before he got out to confront a man who was standing in the road.

The man was Ashley Cunliffe, also known as Ashley Mansell, who Marsden claimed had been sending him threatening messages.

Mrs Tench said Marsden was seen to lunge at Mr Cunliffe while holding a hammer and witnesses heard Mr Cunliffe shout, “come on then – without the hammer”.

In interview, Marsden denied he had been holding a hammer, but it was found in the boot of his car after a police search.

He also said he had received threatening messages from Mr Cunliffe.

Mike Davies, defending, said: “There is recent history between Ashley Cunliffe and the defendant, involving a close relative of Damien’s.

“The defendant had been sent numerous texts by Ashley Cunliffe and other relatives including his mother. There were serious threats of violence.”

Mr Davies said Marsden had recently been assaulted by Mr Cunliffe at a petrol station, but decided against pressing charges.

On the day of the offence, Mr Davies said Marsden was driving along the road when Mr Cunliffe “jumped out in front of him”.

Marsden felt “vulnerable” and “frightened that Mr Cunliffe might assault him again”, so grabbed the hammer from his boot. However, he stressed it was never raised above the waist.

Mr Davies added the defendant was a father-of-two and had worked his whole life. He said he had recently been struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of a young nephew and the suicide of a close friend.

He had received an 18-week sentence, suspended for two years, on October 10, for using threatening behaviour towards a neighbour.

But just 11 days later, he was caught drink-driving, and was back before the court on November 7 when 12 weeks of his suspended sentence were activated. He was also given a four-week sentence to run concurrently for the drink-driving offence.

As the incident with the hammer pre-dated Marsden’s most recent convictions, the magistrates imposed a 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for nine months. He must pay £85 costs and a £115 surcharge.

“We want you to think of this as an opportunity to change,” said the magistrates.

“Look at this new year as one that’s going to be different than the past one.”