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Rough sleeper Robert Atkins found guilty of assaulting dog walker in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 08:51 06 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:42 07 May 2017

Norwich Magistrates Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Magistrates Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A 43-year-old man has been found guilty of assaulting a dog walker who woke him up while he was sleeping rough on a Norwich street.

Robert Atkins, who lives at the hostel Bishopsbridge House, admitted that he punched Andrew Stevens, of Magdalen Street, several times, knocking him to the ground.

But Atkins said he was not guilty of assault, and that he acted in self-defence when he failed to recognise Mr Stevens, who he had been friends with before the incident on August 31 last year.

Norwich Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday (Friday, May 5) Mr Stevens was out walking his pet border collie, Rex, about 1.30am when he came upon Atkins sleeping under a blanket in St Saviors Street, off Magdalen Street.

Mr Stevens pulled the blanket away from Atkins and he woke up startled.

Mr Stevens said Atkins punched him “five or six” times and was knocked to the ground.

The court was told Atkins then stood on Mr Stevens’s chest and said: “You are not going anywhere.

“If I let you go, you will come back with others to get me.”

But soon after Atkins took his feet off Mr Stevens, who said he moved away to vomit and then ran off, leaving Rex in Atkins’s care.

Mr Stevens said: “I thought he was going to continue to be aggressive with me.”

Mr Stevens was later treated for injuries to his chest and face at hospital.

Atkins said he did not at first recognise Mr Stevens and thought he was being assaulted, as he had been before when sleeping rough.

He said: “I was dazed and I didn’t know what happened at first. I caused the injuries but I was looking after his dog as well.”

But Mr Stevens said: “He continued to hit me after he recognised me.”

Mr Stevens said he had known Atkins for between four and six weeks before the assault. Mr Stevens had sometimes let Atkins stay at his flat, as he was homeless.

Atkins was ordered to pay £200 in compensation to Mr Stevens.

Chair of the bench, Susan Alexander, told Atkins that the magistrates accepted that he thought he was acting in self defence because he was under attack.

She said: “However, your response and the force used, even in the circumstances, was unreasonable. Therefore we find you guilty.”

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