A WOMAN who booted a nurse in a 'sickening' assault and hurled vile homophobic abuse at police has been spared prison.

Shannon Carter sobbed in the dock of Greenock Sheriff Court as Andrew McIntyre on the bench teetered on the brink of jailing her.

But he said he was 'narrowly persuaded' by defence lawyer Ellen Macdonald to give Carter the chance of a rehabilitation programme.

However, the 25-year-old offender must also complete 135 hours of unpaid work for the community, or be locked up.

The court heard how Carter, who was twice a victim of sexual assaults, 'relapsed spectacularly' into booze abuse.

She was found lying unconscious on Greenock's West Blackhall Street and lashed out at police after eventually coming to.

Carter later kicked a female nurse on the arm at Inverclyde Royal Hospital as the medic was helping her into a bed.

During a tirade of homophobic slurs she shouted at officers: "You're going to die in hell."

Solicitor Ms Macdonald told a sentencing hearing that her client had recently begun a residential placement at an Aberdeen-based project called City Hearts.

The lawyer said: "Miss Carter relapsed spectacularly to drink to excess.

"Due to her state of intoxication her recollection of events is negligible."

Sheriff McIntyre remarked: "It is quite hard to stomach an assault on a staff nurse, and also the extreme homophobic nature of what she said."

Ms Macdonald responded: "She is at a turning point now, is in rehab and is doing well.

"If she goes to custody all of that is derailed.

"She would go to custody and be sent back into the community with no support.

"There is a programme available to her that can do her, and the wider community, good."

Carter committed her offences on March 23 and April 5.

Sheriff McIntyre told her: "To be abusive to an emergency worker and the police is bad enough, but to engage in such homophobic remarks makes matters worse.

"To go so far as to assault a nurse is sickening and people will be disgusted to read about this.

"Your offences easily pass the threshold for prison, however, I'm required by law to consider alternatives.

"I do see that you had not offended since 2011 and that there is a project that you are engaging with.

"I am narrowly persuaded by your solicitor to give you a chance to continue with the project and also to serve a sentence in the community as an alternative to prison.

"If you do not comply these matters will revert to the prison sentence I was considering a few moments ago."

Carter must complete the unpaid work within nine months.