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October 12, 2005

Pensioner who stabbed boy is spared prison

From: - United Kingdom - Oct 12, 2005

By Paul Stokes (Filed: 12/10/2005)

A deaf mute pensioner who stabbed a schoolboy after enduring more than a year of torment from youths outside his home was spared jail yesterday.

Frank Morton, 66, finally "snapped" over the vibrations caused by a football constantly banging against the gable end of his house.

He took a knife to confront three boys playing there and caused lacerations to the chest and hand of a 14-year-old, who later required stitches.

It was the culmination of 18 months of misery inflicted by local teenagers on Morton, his wife Elizabeth and their adult son Simon.

Simon had been the victim of a violent attack and the family made repeated complaints to the police about anti-social behaviour.

Frank Morton has a heart condition, has been deaf and mute since the age of two and had never been in trouble before.

After attacking the boy he contacted his son and told him to call the police to his home in South Shields.

Morton, who was arrested, told officers he believed the boy he stabbed had been involved in the earlier attack on Simon, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

It has since been accepted that the boy had moved into the area only a few weeks earlier and was not to blame for the previous disorder.

Morton admitted unlawful wounding and faced a jail term of up to five years.

References from more than 100 people were handed to the court vouching for Morton's good character and saying that he was "highly respected" by members of the deaf community.

His barrister, Gavin Doig, said: "This was a serious offence committed by a man of good character who had been driven to the end of his tether."

Ailsa McDonald, prosecuting, said Morton had admitted to police that he had said to himself "Oh God, I've put the knife in, I've made a mistake."

She told the court: "The Crown would have to accept that there has been considerable anti-social behaviour from youths on the estate."

Judge David Hodson said it had been the repeated actions of the boys on March 24 that caused Morton to snap.

He told him: "I am quite satisfied that the offence is highly out of character and as a result of the direct and indirect activities of a number of young people outside your house over a significant period of time, probably in excess of 12 months.

"During that time your son has been the object of violence and intimidation from those youths and there has been quite clearly a lot of deliberate antagonism of you and your family by the group of young people."

The judge said a custodial sentence could not be avoided to mark the seriousness of the use of a knife. But the exceptional circumstances meant the nine-month sentence could be suspended for two years.

He added: "It is indeed very sad that a man of your previous good character, who is thought of in such a high way by so many people, is in the dock of a Crown Court facing a serious charge."

The judge will determine the level of compensation Morton must pay his victim later.

Northumbria Police said that they had received nine calls from Morton's address before the stabbing incident, seven were related to youth disorder, including football being played outside the house.

Insp Peter Sutton said: "Officers attended on every occasion and extra attention was paid to the area. Advice was also given to the family."

There were 33 calls to the streets around Morton's home relating to youths between Aug 1 last year and the day of the stabbing on March 23 this year.

Insp Sutton said: "Most of these related to youths drinking alcohol or generally causing a disturbance by being in large groups."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.