A 44-year-old man has escaped jail after an attack on a 96-year-old war veteran that left him blind in one eye.

Paranoid schizophrenic Stephen Gordon, from Croydon, was found guilty of attacking the elderly man on a tram between Sandilands and East Croydon on December 14 last year.

Croydon Crown Court was told Gordon had tried to push past the victim, who was standing in the aisle leaning on his walking sticks.

When Gordon tried to walk under the elderly man's arms to get by, his hat came off.

He lashed out, calling the victim a "bastard" and punching him in the face.

Gordon left the tram at Lebanon Road but was chased by two schoolchildren.

He was arrested in January and was found guilty at trial of causing grievous bodily harm.

Sentencing Gordon today to three years' supervision, Judge Macrae said a jail term was not in the best interest of the public.

Instead, he said, getting Gordon treatment for his illness was "in the best interests of the public in the future".

British Transport Police Detective Constable Darren Stenning said it had been "a particularly nasty attack on an elderly man who was obviously very frail and was physically not able to defend himself".

"The blow to the victim's head caused serious injury which has resulted in the victim losing sight in one eye.

"And unfortunately since this assault, the victim's health has deteriorated and he now resides in a residential care home.

"This kind of incident should not be tolerated by anyone.

"British Transport Police would like to thank the witnesses, including two schoolchildren, who were able to provide police with vital evidence in this investigation."