A 20 year-old male found guilty of assaulting a disabled man

15/03/2012

A man was today found guilty at Stafford Crown Court of targeting a disabled man, subjecting him to an assault and burgling his home in Blythe Bridge.

In the early hours of 4 December 2011, David Jonathan Betts (also known as Freeman) aged 20, together with a 16 year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, went to the home address of the victim where they banged on the windows of his flat.

The victim eventually opened his living room window and Betts sprayed him in the face with a noxious substance, a pepper type spray, causing him immediate pain. As the victim retreated, the female offender climbed in through the open window and the pair stole his television before running away.

Celia Thorpe, Senior Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This was a most unpleasant and wholly unprovoked attack upon a man who was in a vulnerable situation.

"The behaviour of these individuals was intimidating and threatening and was motivated in part by hostility towards the victim because he has a learning disability.

"Notwithstanding the attack upon him, the victim showed immense courage in dialling 999 and was able to give a very full initial account to the police, which led to the arrest later that day of three individuals.

"I would like to take this opportunity of thanking him in supporting the prosecution case. He gave his evidence with the assistance of a trained intermediary who was able to meet him and establish what assistance he needed in communicating and giving his best evidence in court long before the trial date. The Judge also granted the use of special measures so that the victim could use a television link from another room to give his evidence without the ordeal of having to enter the Court room or face his attackers.

"Staffordshire Police have carried out a very thorough investigation, and have been committed to working alongside the CPS to bring the offenders to justice. I would also like to pay tribute to the excellent work that the Witness Care Service and Victim Support Organisation have done behind the scenes to ensure that the victim was supported throughout the proceedings.

"The three offenders will be sentenced at a later date and the court asked to invoke Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which increases the sentence where there has been hostility towards the victim based upon his having a disability.

"I hope that today's verdict sends out a strong message that the CPS will always seek to identify and flag up cases of disability hate crime and to ensure that all measures are put into place for the victims to be able to give their best evidence."

Aaron Rowley, aged 22, had earlier pleaded guilty to possession of a canister of pepper spray which is a prohibited weapon within our jurisdiction.

 The 16 year-old female had earlier admitted a charge of burglary.

 All three defendants are due to be sentenced next month.