THE parents of a disabled teenager have spoken out after a gang was spared jail for smashing up a £15,000 mobility car and abusing her.
Margaret Simons, whose 19-year-old daughter Katie Simons, has severe autism and has the mental age of a five-year-old, is furious that Thomas Harold Keogan was not sent straight to jail for the episode in Wheatley, Doncaster.
Mrs Simons said she had a nervous breakdown after the incident near the Londis mini-market in Beckett Road last December, when a gang of yobs started making cruel comments about Katie’s disability while she was sitting in their Vauxhall Zafira people carrier.
She said: “They were calling Katie names and jumping on the car. They knew she was disabled, and all they could do was laugh at her. Katie had her head in her hands.”
Doncaster Crown Court was told Mrs Simons was so upset and frightened she drove straight home to their house in Wheatley - but then realised that in her hurry she had left her shopping at the supermarket.
When she went back the gang was still hanging around and being abusive so she tried to drive off again.
“There were about 20 of them and one of them punched my son, Steven, who got out of the car to push them away,” she said.
“Then Keogan pulled up in his van in front of me and got out with this five-pronged garden rake and started hitting the car with it.
“I don’t know why he became involved because the police say he has no connection to these teenagers.
“He just kept calling me names and said he would ‘wrap the rake around my neck’.”
Keogan then drove at a female police community support officer at the scene, but she took his registration number and he was arrested later.
At court the 40-year-old father-of-five, of Wheatley, admitted affray but was spared jail because of his previous good character and his guilty plea.
He was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years and 200 hours of community service. He was also handed a three-year restraining order banning him from contacting the Simons family.
Mrs Simons added: “There’s no justice. I had a nervous breakdown over this. My daughter might be disabled but she’s got feelings.
“She knows when people are taking the mickey so she spends a lot of time at home.”
Their car was so badly damaged it was written off and the family have had a panic alarm fitted to their home.
Keogan’s defence counsel, Paul O’Shea, described the incident as ‘wholly out of character’.
Police have used the case to highlight the issues about disability hate crime not being reported to them.
Speaking after the hearing Det Insp Mel Palin, the force’s lead for hate crime, said: “South Yorkshire Police treat hate crime very seriously. We seek to identify all hate related incidents at the earliest possible stage so we can give victims and witnesses the support they require and gather sufficient evidence to bring offenders to justice.
“It is recognised nationally hate crime in general, especially disability-related hate crime, is under reported.”