Gay priest’s attacker is jailed

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A teenager has been jailed for a homophobic attack on a priest after beating him with a metal baseball bat in Bournemouth.

Martin Powell,19, had pleaded guilty to assaulting the Most Rev Dr Barry Rathbone twice with the weapon, and was sentenced to two years in a young offenders institute with a further two years on extended licence for the assault.

The Western Circuit Recorder, Geoffrey Mercer QC, said: “This was an extremely unpleasant assault. It was premeditated in that you deliberately armed yourself with a baseball bat.

“It was unprovoked and it was an act with a baseball bat upon an innocent victim at night.

“It’s a matter of chance that the victim was not more seriously injured. It was an offence which was aggravated by homophobic motivation on your part.”

Bournemouth Crown Court heard that Dr Rathbone was attacked after a night out in November when he was approached by Powell in Bournemouth Gardens, Dorset, who asked: “Excuse me mate, does anything go on round here?”

Dr Rathbone said he believed the area was a “gay cruising site”.

Powell, who was drunk and under the influence of amphetamines, called Dr Rathbone “a queer” and then attacked him with a three-foot long baseball bat.

He demanded money but left with the clergyman’s half eaten burger which he had been holding.

The priest was left with broken ribs and suspected spleen damage.

Dr Rathbone previously told the Daily Echo, he has forgiven Powell, he said: “I forgave him the day he did it. After the attack I didn’t like going out on my own. I had a stroke in January due to the stress of the attack. I am a lot more nervous even if I am walking down the road in the daytime and someone is behind me.”

“I don’t bear him any malice. He would be very welcome at our church. I have no problem having him there.”