Mugger faces 'hate crime' claims
A drug addict who mugged frail pensioner Alan Barnes wept as he heard lawyers will argue his attack was a hate crime.
The prosecution will say Richard Gatiss deliberately targeted his 4ft 6in, visually-impaired 67-year-old victim out of hostility towards the disabled.
The sickening story of how Mr Barnes, from Low Fell, Gateshead, was attacked in January went global and a fundraising exercise to buy him a new home was stopped when it reached £330,000 in a matter of days.
Gatiss, 25, from Split Crow Road, Gateshead, appeared briefly at Newcastle Crown Court via a videolink from Durham Prison where he is being kept in segregation for his own safety. He will be sentenced on April 2.
The mugger appeared distraught, and sat hunched in his chair as he followed proceedings.
Nick Dry, prosecuting, said the mugger struck in an area of sheltered accommodation for disabled and elderly people, he made a partial admission to police that he knew of Mr Barnes prior to the attack, and that, in Mr Barnes's opinion, he was attacked due to his disability.
Mr Dry said if it was agreed that Gatiss specifically targeted Mr Barnes "it can be inferred there is a general hostility towards people of disability".
That could mean Gatiss was guilty of a disability hate crime, which would aggravate the assault with intent to rob charge that he admitted last month.
Mr Dry added: "It is pure inference that is sought by the crown."
Judge Paul Sloan QC felt the claim of a general hostility towards disabled people was "hollow", and that the aggravating circumstances would be factored into the sentencing exercise anyway.
He said the prosecution must serve evidence to back up their claims within a week.
Judge Sloan told Gatiss at the end of the 10 minute hearing he would continue to be remanded in custody and "an immediate sentence of imprisonment is pretty well inevitable".
It has previously been said in court that Gatiss was trying to get money to buy legal highs when he mugged Mr Barnes.
His victim was shoved over and broke his collarbone but Gatiss fled empty-handed when Mr Barnes called for help.