SCHOOLBOYS got more than they bargained for when one of them made a V-sign out of the back of a school bus travelling through Selby, a court heard Nigel Gilroy Smith, 20, who was in the van behind, boarded the double decker and hit three youths in the face, including the one who had gestured, said prosecutor Rob Galley.

"It was quite in order for you and your father to speak to the driver and tell him what was going on," Judge Stephen Ashurst told Smith at York Crown Court.

"I suspect most of the members of the public would have been quite understanding about that.

"It was out of order for you then to go into the bus. Although you had been provoked, it was an over-the-top reaction."

The judge pointed out that the majority of children on the bus were innocent.

He gave Smith a community order with 12 months' supervision to help him with his "considerable limitations".

Smith, of Carlton Caravan Site, Lynwith Lane, Carlton, pleaded guilty to assaulting three teenagers aged 14 and 15, and affray.

His barrister, Chris Smith, said he was an epileptic who was not well and had an "anomaly" in his brain.

Mr Galley said the boy in the back of the bus who made the V-sign claimed he made it to a friend, but others saw him gesturing out of the window.

Smith and his father were in a van following behind the bus. When it stopped, they boarded it and Smith went upstairs.

"Who has been sticking fingers up at the back of the bus?" he shouted, grabbed the boy responsible by the neck and struck him on the face. He taunted another with the words "are you crying" and told him he would "make him cry" and swore at the children. All three boys suffered reddening to the face, but no serious injuries. The bus resumed its journey to the children's school, where police were alerted and girls described their fear.

The double decker was carrying the party of teenagers back to their school after attending a vocational course at another education centre.

The head teacher at the school the youngsters attend said he was very disappointed with the sentence handed down.

He said: "I know the students were causing provocation, but I'm somewhat confused and disappointed that an adult, as a result of schoolboy hand gestures, seems to be getting forgiven for this type of behaviour."