ITV bosses have defended The Jeremy Kyle Show after it was branded a ‘human form of bear baiting’ by a judge sentencing a man who headbutted his love rival.

Security guard David Staniforth, 45, attacked Larry Mahoney, 39, after discovering he had begun an affair with his wife Jennifer after moving into their home as a lodger.

Staniforth, of Jago Avenue, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was fined £300 plus £60 costs after he lashed out at bus driver Mr Mahoney during a recording of the show on May 16 this year.

He is thought to be the first person convicted of assaulting someone on a British talk show.

Passing sentence at Manchester Magistrates Court, District Judge Alan Berg reportedly criticised the programme as aiming to ‘effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people’.

The MediaGuardian website quoted the judge as condemning the show, saying: “It is for no more and no less than titillating members of the public who have nothing better to do with their mornings than sit and watch this show which is a human form of bear baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment.

“The people responsible for this, namely the producers, should, in my opinion, be in the dock with you, Mr Staniforth.”

ITV defended their conduct, said they had always opposed violence and disagreed with the judge’s comments about their viewers.

An ITV spokeswoman said: “We take the safety and wellbeing of studio guests extremely seriously. It is made clear to all guests prior to going into the studio that no violence is ever tolerated.

“In addition, we would like to make it clear that we do not share the district judge’s opinion of the viewing public and the people who choose to take part in our programme in an effort to resolve their problems.”