Saturday 21 October 2017

Man who mugged disabled pensioner 'used legal highs'

Disabled pensioner Alan Barnes who was mugged outside his home in Gateshead. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Disabled pensioner Alan Barnes who was mugged outside his home in Gateshead. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Video grab taken from BBC News of Alan Barnes appearing on BBC Breakfast, after beautician Katie Cutler set up the Help Alan Barnes online donation page. Photo: BBC News/PA Wire

A 25-year-old who admitted an attack on a disabled pensioner, whose plight prompted people to donate thousands of pounds, was a user of so-called legal highs at the time, it can now be reported.

Richard Gatiss shoved over Alan Barnes, a 4ft 6in, frail and visually-impaired 67-year-old as he put out his wheelie bin on January 25, breaking his victim's collarbone.

The case spurred well-wishers to donate £330,000 after 21-year-old Katie Cutler set up a fundraising page.

Gatiss appeared at Newcastle Crown Court via a video-link from Durham Prison and admitted assault with intent to rob.

At a previous hearing, details of the case which could not then be reported were revealed, including the fact that Gatiss should not be given bail on that occasion for his own safety.

And prosecutor Keith Laidlaw told the previous hearing at Gateshead Magistrates' Court: "Legal highs played their part in this.

"There is also possession of cannabis on his record and there is a drugs background."

Gatiss forced Mr Barnes to the pavement outside his home in Low Fell, Gateshead, and told him "hand over your money" but his victim said he had none.

The mugger ran off when Mr Barnes shouted for help.

Northumbria Police detectives traced Gatiss after recovering forensic evidence the mugger left on Mr Barnes's jacket pocket.

The attack was motivated by a need for money for drugs, the previous hearing was told.

At the Crown Court, Jamie Adams, defending, said his client was segregated in prison because of the strong feelings his crime aroused.

"He wishes me to say at this stage that he is shocked, horrified and deeply ashamed of what he did," the barrister said.

"He has not stopped thinking about Mr Barnes since this awful deed.

Pensioner Alan Barnes with Katie Cutler, as Richard Gatiss, 25, from Gateshead, pleaded guilty at Newcastle Crown Court to assault with intent to rob the disabled pensioner, whose plight prompted people to donate thousands of pounds to an online appeal. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Pensioner Alan Barnes with Katie Cutler, as Richard Gatiss, 25, from Gateshead, pleaded guilty at Newcastle Crown Court to assault with intent to rob the disabled pensioner, whose plight prompted people to donate thousands of pounds to an online appeal. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Pensioner Alan Barnes with Katie Cutler, at the Assembly Rooms in Newcastle, where he received a cheque of £330,135 raised by well wishers after Katie set up an online fund for him after he was mugged. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

"He is very conscious of being in the public eye and everyone not just gazing at him but glaring at him.

"It is having a deleterious effect on his wellbeing.

"Necessarily, he is segregated in prison because of the way people feel about him."

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