William Hoarsley's family immediately condemned the sentence on Paul Gordon, 26, as 'outrageous' and called for an inquiry.
Ellen Hall, the dead man's niece, said: 'I am so sick and disgusted by this sentence. I just cannot believe it. It seems the British justice system is falling apart.'
Gordon, who has a string of previous convictions, killed Mr Hoarsley after refusing to take his medication while on the care in the community programme. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery. His not guilty plea to murder was accepted.
Judge Henry Pownall told Gordon he would have to spend the first part of the probation order as an in-patient at Bexley hospital in Kent. If he responds to medication, he will complete the sentence in the community as an out-patient. A probation officer said afterwards that Gordon would almost certainly be released into the community before the completion of the three-year probation order.
Mr Hoarsley, of New Cross, south- east London, was attacked while feeding pigeons after collecting pounds 50 from a nearby post office, an earlier hearing was told.
Gordon, who had seen him collect the money, pushed the old man back over the wall he was sitting on. Mr Hoarsley, who served in the RAF during the Second World War, cracked his head as he tumbled to the ground, then suffered a heart attack.
Gordon, also of New Cross, ran off with the cash and a post office book.
The judge told him: 'What you did in bringing this old man's life to an end was a pretty horrid thing to do. But the circumstances are such that I can take a pretty unusual course.
'I make a probation order with the condition that you continue your treatment.'
Mrs Hall said: 'The sentence is absolutely outrageous. All the wrong messages are being sent out. People must know they cannot just go out and attack old people and get off scot- free.'
The officer in the case, Det Con Leslie Oke, said he would be contacting the Crown Prosecution Service to ask for a review of the case. Mrs Hall and her family were also upset that the judge heard the facts from only the defence barrister.
The case had been heard by Judge Brian Smedley but he was not available yesterday to pass sentence, so it was added to the list of Judge Pownall, who already had 17 other cases to deal with. Mrs Hall said: 'This was production line justice.'
Gordon's previous convictions included robbery, burglary and possessing an offensive weapon - a meat cleaver.Reuse content