A man who bombarded his ex-girlfriend with text messages and calls was handed a 12-month restraining order and told to attend a domestic abuse programme.

Unemployed Vincent Burke, 26, of Mornington Road, Chingford, made up to 80 calls a day to Valentina Palmeiri, from Waltham Abbey, after their seven-year relationship ended, Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard yesterday.

He is banned from contacting his former girlfriend in any way for the next 12 months and must complete 80 hours of unpaid work, as well as paying costs of £145.

Burke, who pleaded guilty on April 1 to harassing Miss Palmeiri on or before 29 March this year, was warned by the magistrates that if he returned to court he would face jail.

Magistrates chairman, the Rev Geoff Smith, said: "We don't know exactly what her long term reaction to what's happened is going to be but at the very least I would have thought she would have a degree of suspicion about future relationships.

“This does make this offence very serious indeed."

"If you come back again for anything approaching this kind of problem you will leave this building through the door behind you [to the cells]," he warned Burke.

Prosecutor Denise Holland told the court two years ago Burke was given a harassment warning by police about sending texts to his ex-girlfriend.

He stopped for a month and then began contacting her again and they re-started a relationship, but that broke down in April last year.

Miss Holland said: "On 25 March this year Miss Palmeiri contacted police to say since they separated she had received hundreds of emails, calls and texts although she had not seen him for a year.

“She regularly received about 30 calls a day and had received up to 80 calls in one day from him."

She said the calls were not violent, but "persistent".

“They asked personal questions such as ‘Who are you sleeping with?’ and ‘Why are you doing this?’” she added.

Mitigating, Gareth Hunter explained the couple's seven-year relationship had broken down and Burke couldn't cope with it.

"He dealt with it by bombarding her with messages.

“He accepts he needs help. It's over and done with and that's the end of it,” he added.