On 2 April 2015, Richard Gatiss was sentenced for assault with intent to rob, having pleaded guilty on 24 February 2015. He received a sentence of 4 years’ imprisonment.
Alan Barnes, 67, was putting out his bins when Gatiss knocked him to the ground, searched his pockets and then fled, empty handed. Mr Barnes, who suffers from height and growth problems and additionally is visually impaired, suffered a broken collar bone. The motivation was said to have been to fund the purchase of “legal highs”.
The case touched the hearts of many, and a fundraising drive for him collected over £300,000. It has been reported that as he is fearful of returning to his property, he will use the money to buy a new house.
After Gatiss pleaded guilty, Dan said the following:
“When adjourning the case, the Judge “warned Gatiss jail was likely“. This is somewhat of an understatement. Custody here is a virtual certainty.
We know that Mr Barnes was a vulnerable man (he was visually impaired and is only 4 foot 6). He was attacked outside his home and was left with a broken collar bone.
There are sentencing guidelines for robbery (the Council have been recently consulting and intend to have a replacement out shortly). Although the offence was assault with intent to rob, the outcome of the sentence is pretty similar.
The sentence will depend on whether the injury to Mr Barns is deemed to be ‘serious physical injury’ that has been caused by ‘significant force’ (see the table at page 11).
It is difficult to say. My view would be that although this was a disgraceful and cowardly attack, it sounds like it was not quite in that category. We don’t know exactly how it panned out, but it seems that Mr Barnes was pushed in a confrontation and broke his collarbone whilst falling. – the news report says “Gatiss pushed Mr Barnes to the pavement outside his home in January and told him to hand over his money but his victim said he had none and Gatiss then ran off.”
For that reason, I would say it is towards the top of Category 2, with a starting point of about 6 years. There will be full credit for a plea of guilty, and so we would expect a sentence of about 4 years.”
So we can see that Dan was spot on. Applying the guidelines – and not being unduly swayed into dishing out an overly-harsh sentence due to the media attention the case has seen, results in what is our view, a fair sentence of 4 years’ imprisonment.
Some will think this sentence is too long, many will think it is not long enough. It is important to remember that all but a few very violent and dangerous offenders going to prison will have to be released, and it is better for society – financially and in terms of safety – if offenders are helped to break a cycle of offending, or are helped to avoid re-offending after a first offence. If drugs are an issue for Gattis, let’s hope he gets some help.