A man tried to rob a mother and her son of their mobile phones as they were walking in public on a town’s streets.

Durham Crown Court heard that the woman and her 12-year-old son were using their phones leaving Hackworth Park, in Shildon, on April 4.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said as they crossed a road, Alan Patterson approached and tried to grab the phone from the woman, saying: “It’s mine. I’ve just found it.”

The woman disputed his claim and managed to prevent him from taking it, as her phone was attached to her finger by a ring, although she suffered a small graze to her hand in doing so.

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But Patterson was able to snatch the phone from the woman’s son, taking it forcibly from him after a brief skirmish, having approached saying: “Give it to me. It’s mine.”

Mr Towers said it was reported to police immediately and an identification was given.

Patterson was picked up on town centre CCTV footage and by tracking the phone he was traced and was heard trying to negotiate its sale.

When approached Patterson tried to run away from a policer officer but was detained and interviewed, the following day, he denied having taken the phone.

In her victim impact statement, read to the court, the mother said the incident had caused her a lot of stress, leaving her and her son fearful of going out in public.

Such was her worry over what took place she moved town as a result, fearing a repeat of the incident, having only recently settled in Shildon due to domestic abuse suffered at a previous location.

She also said the incident badly affected her son, who had nightmares while his education also suffered.

The woman added that as a result of the incident, every time she walks past a stranger she clinches her phone.

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Forty-one-year-old Patterson, of Bessemer Street, Ferryhill, admitted charges of robbery and attempted robbery at a previous hearing.

The court heard he has 33 past convictions but went a long time “offence free” prior to 2021, since when he has breached court orders and committed a series of shop thefts, several while on court bail since the Shildon robbery/robbery sttempt of April 4.

James Fenny, in mitigation, said there has been something of an improvement in the defendant’s response to community orders in recent weeks.

Mr Fenny said having remained out of trouble for some time, the defendant, who has never previously served a custodial sentence, began using cocaine after the death of a close family member, in 2021.

But, due to his cocaine use, he began building up a debt, “with interest”, and he was forced to go out to make money, which saw him committing mainly low-level crimes.

Judge Jo Kidd said the defendant appeared to have, “deliberately targeted a woman and child”.

Mr Fenny said, in response: “He would say he saw a chance and took it.”

But Judge Kidd said: “Well, he didn’t target a 6ft 2in rugby player.”

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Addressing Patterson, the judge said: “It’s not clear if you were under the influence, but the people you targeted were a woman with a child and the impact has been terrible upon them.

“The reality is that you continued to take drugs and you’ve failed to comply properly with court orders in place over the course of the summer, while continuing to commit offences.”

Imposing a 25-month prison sentence, the defendant’s first, the judge added that whatever progress Patterson has made in recent weeks, has been, “too little, too late.”