Hate crime campaigners have welcomed the recognition in court that the brutal murder of a disabled man in his own flat was a disability hate crime.
Martin Mather, 23, was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to beating Philip Holmes to death at his flat in Rhyl, north Wales, in April this year.
The judge, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, told Mather he will serve at least 17 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
Holmes, who had a mobility impairment, was found dead in his flat by his support worker on 16 April.
Because it was a murder case, the law did not allow the judge to increase Mather’s sentence on the grounds that it was a disability hate crime, even though both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and North Wales police had treated it as a hate crime.
The CPS drew the court’s attention to the “hostility” Mather had shown towards Holmes as a disabled person when interviewed by police but the judge was only able to increase the sentence on the grounds of Holmes’s “vulnerability”.
Detective chief inspector John Hanson said Mather had carried out a “brutal and sustained attack” on Holmes.
He said: “Having attacked his disabled victim, a man who couldn’t walk without a frame, he left him on the floor in his flat, closing the door behind him and making no attempt to help or call assistance.
“He showed a callous disregard for Philip and whilst in police custody showed no remorse whatsoever for his actions.”
The court heard that Holmes suffered massive internal injuries consistent with a sustained violent assault.
Gareth Preston, CPS North Wales crown advocate, said: “It is hard to know for certain the exact motivation behind this attack – only Martin Mather truly knows what drove him to commit such an horrific crime.
“What is clear is that Mr Mather was aware of, and exploited, Philip Holmes’ vulnerable situation.
“In interviews with police after his arrest, Mr Mather also made disparaging remarks about Philip Holmes that displayed hostility toward his disability.”
Anne Novis, a leading disabled activist and anti-hate crime campaigner, welcomed the statement in court by the CPS that the murder was a disability hate crime and said this recognition would be “good for community confidence”.
But she said the case highlighted why there was a need for tougher disability hate crime laws, to ensure equality with how other types of hate crime were treated by the courts.