A MASKED 14-year-old boy who robbed a youngster of his mobile phone in a subway has avoided a custodial sentence.

The lad put a scarf over his face and grabbed the BlackBerry handset from his young victim’s pocket after repeatedly punching him in the quiet underpass.

But after hearing the defendant had spent six months in custody on remand and now seemed to be turning his back on crime, a judge imposed a youth rehabilitation order.

Chris Smyth, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court the 15-year-old victim was talking on his phone as he walked in the street on July 29 last year.

He finished the call as he went into a subway under Westfield Way, Hay-don Wick, shortly before 2pm and put the Black-Berry back into his pocket.

As he did so a youth entered the underpass at the other end and covered his face with a scarf as he approached the boy.

“He punched him three times to the stomach and put his hand in the boy’s pocket. He took out his mobile phone and some loose change that also fell out,” he said.

As he ran off the lad shouted, ‘Don’t take my phone’ and the robber returned, took out the SIM card, threw it down and then fled.

The victim told the police what had happened and at 3pm officers saw a lad matching the description and, after a short chase, caught him.

He was also picked out by the victim in an identity parade and when he was questioned he refused to answer any questions.

Mr Smyth said when the defendant’s phone was examined it was found he had been sending text messages to his victim.

The lad pleaded guilty to robbery after prosecutors accepted that he was not armed with a knife at the time.

He has a number of previous convictions for theft and is also awaiting sentence in Birmingham for racially aggravated criminal damage, the court heard.

Alex Daymond, defending, said things started going wrong for his client, who is now 15, a couple of years ago and his mother put him into care as she could not cope.

“It has been a somewhat unhappy history. It seems there is undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which has contributed to his problems,” he said.

After being remanded into custody in a children’s home, he was released in March and has now been found a placement where he is doing well.

“He seems to have had a very positive turnaround. This young man seems now to be moving in the right direction,” he said Mr Daymond said if his client, who is also starting an apprenticeship, was sent to custody he would be “at risk of picking up bad habits”.

Passing sentence, Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “Having read what is said about you in the Youth Offending Team sentencing report, here we are 12 months later; it seems for the first time in your young life you have realised you were stupid. You have realised how the victim felt about it all.”

He imposed a one year youth rehabilitation order with supervision involving various courses and a three month curfew.