Council social services bosses have failed in a bid to jail a football coach who lost his temper at a town hall as a result of a High Court judge's ruling on the meaning of a word.

Lawyers representing Wandsworth Council said Neil Lennard, 47, had breached an order barring him from using offensive language "towards" to a particular female social worker.

A lawyer representing Mr Lennard, who had apologised, disagreed and said the words used were not "towards" her.

Mr Justice MacDonald on Friday ruled in Mr Lennard's favour, after analysing the meaning of the word "towards", and dismissed the council's application to commit him to jail.

The judge considered the case at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He heard that social workers were involved with one Mr Lennard's children.

Mr Lennard felt he had been let down by the council and there had been "incidents".

Council bosses complained and another judge made an order barring Mr Lennard from using offensive language "towards" the social worker.

They then argued that Mr Lennard had broken that order when he lost his temper and made abusive comments about the social worker to two other members of staff.

Mr Justice MacDonald concluded that Mr Lennard had not made the comments "towards" the social worker because she had not been present and the comments were not aimed in her direction.

But the judge warned Mr Lennard about losing him temper, and told him: "It might be said that you are a lucky man."

The judge said none of Mr Lennard's children should be named in media reports.