City centre robbery accused refused bail


A man charged over the “street mugging’’ of a pensioner has been refused bail after a judge said his mother was “at the end of her tether with his drinking”.

Barry Atkinson, 20, of Bentinck Street, Belfast, was arrested last year over the robbery of Sydney Beattie Nicholl in Belfast city centre.

Prosecuting solicitor Joseph Murphy told Belfast Crown Court that on August 14, 2013, the victim, who is in his 70s and suffers from dementia, reported to police that he had been mugged by two men as he sat in Fountain Street at the rear of the Boots store.

“He said that a young man grabbed him by the arms and held them behind his back while an older man took £40, a bank card and identity card from his pockets.

The solicitor said: “CCTV operators picked up the offenders running off in the direction of Belfast City Hall and then into Donegall Square North where they disposed of a brown package.’’

Mr Murphy told Judge Stephen Fowler QC that police arrived on the scene and arrested the two males.

“During interview, this defendant stated that he had consumed a lot of alcohol. He said his recollection was hazy and didn’t know how the bank card got in his pocket. However, he did express remorse and said he was grateful the old man was not hurt.’’

The prosecution solicitor said Atkinson was subsequently released on bail but breached his bail conditions by drinking alcohol. He had also been caught with 50 Diazepam tablets last September and received a caution for the offence.

“He had been bailed to his mother’s address at Bentinck Street but on July 1 his mother rang police to say that she was revoking her bail address as her son had been drinking alcohol and had damaged the house.’’

Mr Murphy said the Crown was objecting to Atkinson’s release because of the breaches of bail due to his continued alcohol consumption, the possession of the tablets and that a bench warrant had to be issued for his arrest after he failed to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court in January over the robbery charge.

Defence solicitor Paul Farrell said that Atkinson’s mother was now prepared to allow her son to stay at her home if he was granted bail.

“His mother will have a choker chain on him and she will have no hesitation in contacting the police if consumes alcohol again,’’ he said.

However, Judge Fowler QC said he was refusing bail given Atkinson’s continued breaches of his bail conditions over the past 12 months.

He said: “I am not prepared to give you another chance. I am not prepared to take that risk. Your mother is at the end of her tether with your consumption of alcohol. Bail is refused.’’