A FORMER soldier from York racially abused a disabled busker in the city centre because he had seen him on TV boasting about claiming benefits, a court has heard.
Mark Hawksby, 34, spotted Viorel Dinu in Coney Street, a week after having seen him on Channel 5’s Gypsies on Benefits and Proud.
Hawksby, of St Mary’s Close in Wigginton, recognised Mr Dinu while he was playing the accordion and rounded on him.
Mr Dinu, who has no legs, was sitting on a skateboard in a shop doorway.
Hawksby claimed there was so much money in his coat by 11.30am that he tripped over it on the pavement.
At York Magistrates Court, Hawksby said: “I had a go at him about being on the programme and what he had said.
“He said he had come to Britain purposely because it was a soft touch.
“I said ‘You’re out of order for going on this TV programme and saying you can milk the system’.”
The court heard Hawksby threw the coat into the gutter in Coney Street, scattering the money.
He also grabbed Dinu’s accordion and threw it into the road, saying: “This is English money for English people.”
The court heard a puzzled crowd formed and Hawksby was grabbed by a girl from a hen party, then stormed off, yelling: “I will see you do not busk in York again.”
Dinu, who travels the country telling people he lost his legs as a child when he was run over by a train, did not report the incident and did not co-operate with police who investigated after complaints from the public.
Hawksby was arrested after his picture was taken by a University of York employee who shared the images with North Yorkshire Police on Facebook.
Hawksby told officers: “He is not even from York. It costs 23 to 25 quid on the train so he must be earning some right money busking.”
Hawksby denied racially aggravated threatening behaviour but was convicted.
He was given a four month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay £100 costs and an £80 surcharge.
Mr Dinu had told the Channel 5 programme that he and other Romanians had come to the UK because it was a “soft touch” the court heard.