A PART-TIME chef has avoided jail despite stalking MP Mike Amesbury and leaving him 'that little bit more anxious'.

Stephen Cowell, of Eaton Road, Tarporley, appeared at Chester Magistrates Court on August 18 to be sentenced after he was found guilty last month after trial.

District Judge John McGarva handed the 56-year-old an eight-week prison sentence, but suspended the term for 12 months.

Cowell was also ordered to pay £500 in compensation to Mr Amesbury, MP for east Runcorn, and must complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

A five-year restraining order was also imposed, banning Cowell from contacting, approaching or communicating with Mr Amesbury, directly or indirectly, by any means.

The order also prohibits the defendant from entering the corridor within Runcorn Shopping City where Mr Amesbury's constituency office is located.

Handing down the sentence, Judge McGarva said: "A significant aggravating factor in this case is the fact the victim was a serving MP.

"These kind of offences go to the heart of our democracy. We have all heard about, admittedly, more serious cases."

Mr Amesbury, who represents the Weaver Vale constituency, said: "I hope this firm but fair sentence acts as a lesson to others that this kind of conduct is unacceptable, illegal and results in consequences.

It is extremely rare that people are aggressive or threatening regardless of political affiliation, which is a great credit to the people and community I represent.

"I am just sorry that I now feel that little bit more anxious than before this episode. I know this has had an impact on my staff.

"Everyone, including elected representatives, should be free to carry out their duties and go about their daily business without fear of harassment.

"I'd like to thank Cheshire Police and the CPS for taking this case forward and their support along the way."

Mr Amesbury added the £500 compensation will be donated to charity as and when it arrives.

The court heard how, on June 9 last year, Cowell had been seen 'loitering' around Mr Amesbury's constituency office within the Runcorn Shopping City and staring through the glass.

Mr Amesbury left the office around 4.30pm and walked to his car at which point he was approached by Cowell who asked him how he was going to solve the housing crisis and persisted in his questioning while following the MP to his vehicle.

The politician got into his car but Cowell put his hand on the door to prevent Mr Amesbury from closing it before the MP, who was then shadow minister for housing and planning, gave him his business card and told him to contact him through normal channels.

A week later, on June 16, Mr Amesbury's constituency staff spotted Cowell lingering near the office again while security guards at Runcorn Shopping City saw him in the same area over a month later on July 27.

On August 3 last year, Cowell was seen in Frodsham in the area where Mr Amesbury lives, 'waiting' for the MP at a local Costa Coffee.

The politician was again confronted on the way to his car from the coffee shop, with Cowell 'leaning into' the vehicle as Mr Amesbury tried to leave.

He said the conversation also centred around housing and that Cowell 'showed racist thinking'.