Autistic teen targeted in ‘catastrophic’ disability hate crime on Barrow bus

THE mother of an autistic teenage boy who was subjected to a vicious tirade of abuse on a Barrow bus said the incident has had a “catastrophic” impact on her son.

Andrew Wakefield, 45, of Risedale Road appeared at South Cumbria Magistrates’ Court in Barrow on January 24 where he pleaded guilty to using threatening, abusive and insulting words and behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress on November 26, last year.

The teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been on the number 3 bus near Barrow town hall with his mum, when Wakefield got on and began hurling insults, calling him a “spastic” and a “window-licker” and making comments about what people contribute to society.

Solicitor Mike Graham, defending, said Wakefield had not directed the comments at the teen, but was speaking generally about people who spent their days hanging around the local pub and who he believed did not contribute anything to society.

The teen’s mum, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, spoke to The Mail after the hearing.

She said: “A lot of disability hate crime isn’t reported because people who are targeted don’t have the capacity to report it, or they just don’t want to.

“I can ignore a lot of it, but a targeted attack like that you just can’t.

“The impact is catastrophic on him, with this incident it was by chance that a passenger was so disgusted by what she saw, she posted it on Facebook.

“We are not sure what he understands, sometimes he has a delayed reaction to trauma so he might be OK now but six months down the line things can come out and its pretty hard to deal with.”

The Barrow mum said she remembers the incident still, two months down the line.

She added: “When you’ve got a child like we have you get used to people making comments, but if you listen to them all you drive yourself mad- it’s part of having a child with disabilities.

“I’m not even angry I’m just sad. My son works really works hard, he works his guts off just to be able to do everyday things.

“Go pick on someone who can defend themself.”

Lee Dacre for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Andrew Wakefield used deliberately hateful language on a busy bus which was offensive not only to the mother and son, who were at the receiving end of the abuse, but to all those present.

“In police interview, he initially denied making the comments before saying he made the comments about people he could see outside the bus. However when faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, including a witness statement from another passenger who had been offended by his words, he pleaded guilty at his first hearing at court.

“We made representations to the court that the offence was aggravated by hatred based on the boy’s disability and applied for a sentence uplift. The magistrates, after hearing the evidence, increased the sentence from a fine to a community order plus £85 costs to reflect the disability hostility.

“The CPS is committed to tackling all offences which create public disorder but particularly those where the victims are abused merely because of their disability or perceived disability. We will continue to work closely with the police to ensure that those who commit such offences will be brought before the courts and robustly prosecuted.”

The court heard how Wakefield was sorry for his behaviour and understood his comments were “not acceptable.”

Presiding Magistrate Ann Howson issued a six month community order and Wakefield must complete 80 hours of unpaid work.

He must pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £85.


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