Sunderland robber jailed after attacking homeless man for less than 20p

Robber Paul Mason.
Robber Paul Mason.

A violent Sunderland robber put a homeless man in a choke-hold and repeatedly punched him in the face while demanding the less than 20p he had in loose change.

Paul Mason, 25, grabbed his victim around the neck and squeezed until he started to black out before punching him a "fair few times".

During the shocking violence the homeless victim, who only had "less than 20p, in one and two pences" shouted for help and curled up in a ball to protect himself.

A judge said an attack on such a vulnerable member of society "beggars belief".

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 25-year-old homeless man had been counting money given to him by strangers after "settling down" in a doorway at Waterloo Place, in Sunderland, in the early hours of July 18 when Mason pounced.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court: "He had been sleeping in shop doorways for two weeks.

"He walked along the Holmeside area in Sunderland and settled down in a doorway of a 99p shop at Waterloo Place.

"He was counting out money he had been given by members of the public."

The court heard Mason initially asked the victim for a cigarette but then demanded the money he saw in his hand.

Mr Pallister added: "He tried to get up to get away but was grabbed by the defendant, who grabbed him around the neck in a sleeptight hold, he used both arms to grab the complainant around the neck.

"The defendant then grabbed the complainant to the ground, saying 'give me the rest of your money or I will knock you out'.

"He shouted for help

"He could feel the choke hold the defendant had him in was causing him to black out.

"He continued to shout for help.

"He recalls the defendant punching him 'a fair few times' to the face.

"He curled up in a ball to protect himself."

The court heard the violence came to an end when a passing stranger stepped in and the victim went to a nearby police station for help.

Mason was tracked down through CCTV and told police he had had a lot to drink and was "gutted" about what he had done.

Mason, of no fixed address, who has 16 previous convictions, admitted robbery.

The court heard he was out on licence from a previous prison sentence at the time.

Judge Stephen Earl sentenced him to 28 months behind bars.

The judge said the victim was an "extremely vulnerable man" who had no real money.

Judge Earl added: "To take the money he did have at this time beggars belief.

"He was a vulnerable man, preyed on by this defendant."

The judge commended the passer-by who stepped in when he saw the attack and said "very often, people look the other way".

The court heard Mason has lost both of his parents and his grandfather had passed away not long before the attack.

Jennifer Coxon, defending, said; "As soon as he was arrested he showed immediate remorse and made full admissions at the police station that he was gutted by his behaviour."