Man sentenced for disability hate crime

Paul Lyness.
Paul Lyness.

A man who threatened his autistic neighbour and verbally abused her with a string of disgusting slurs has received a suspended prison sentence.

The woman had lived with her partner at the flat they shared in Kielder Terrace, North Shields, for two years before Paul Lyness, 41, moved in next door.

A court was told how he proceeded to play loud music and host parties with friends into the early hours of the morning, and she then submitted a complaint to her local council, which led to friction between her and Lyness.

His behaviour left her extremely distressed, as her disability left her sensitive to loud noises and disruption to her normal routine.

Tensions eventually boiled over on the evening of April 19 last year, when the 31-year-old woman was having a cigarette in her back garden.

It was then that Lyness started throwing objects around his own back yard, while screaming obscenities at the top of his voice.

The woman began to video his behaviour, at which point he said ‘I’m going to rip your throat out’ and used derogatory phrases referencing her disability.

She fled inside and called the police to report the incident, and officers later arrested Lyness on suspicion of a public order offence.

The offence was then investigated as a hate crime due to the references to the victim’s autism.

On Wednesday, January 16, Lyness admitted the public order offence at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court and was handed a 13-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Following the case, his victim said: “I hadn’t been diagnosed with autism for that long before this happened and I was going through a really difficult time.

“On that particular night, he had been making a lot of noise in the garden and I was already feeling worried about it.

“When he saw me recording what he was doing, he got even more angry and that’s when he threatened to rip my throat out.

“It was then that I knew I had to get the police involved, but even that worried me as I didn’t know whether it would just make things worse.

“The officers who came out were really comforting and made me feel safe again after months of feeling like I was treading on eggshells.

“They treated me with respect and reassured me that it wasn’t my fault, and I’m glad that this man has been dealt with in court for how he treated me.

“If anyone else is in my shoes and doesn’t think the police will believe them, then I want you to know that the best thing to do is to report it.”

Investigating officer PC Jordan Ryan said the case shows how seriously Northumbria Police takes hate crime offences.

He added: “The victim in this case has been incredibly brave to come forward and report what has happened to her to the police.

“Even if she wasn’t autistic, this would have been brought before the courts, but that is an aggravating feature in this case.

“She has been living in fear and when she has tried to capture evidence of his behaviour, she has been subjected to vile slurs about her disability.

“Nobody should be made to feel unsafe just because of who they are and it was only right that this was treated as a hate crime.

“That meant Paul Lyness received a tougher sentence in court and I hope that helps bring some justice for the victim in this case.

“We will not tolerate people being targeted for who they are. Being you is not a crime and if you are a victim of hate crime then please get in touch – for example, by calling Northumbria Police using the 101 number.

“There are a number of ways you can report it and this case shows that something can be done if you pick up the phone and call the police.”

Lyness was also ordered to pay compensation of £100, a £115 victim surcharge and £300 in costs.