A robber attacked a woman on her lunch break as she walked through a city underpass, a court has been told.

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Philip Cleary was given a nine-month jail sentence yesterday for the daylight robbery on December 10 last year.

The 21-year-old of Aspland Road, off Riverside Road, who pleaded guilty to robbery, grabbed the woman from behind in the underpass below St Crispins and wrestled her iPhone from her grasp.

The victim, 24, was walking from Anglia Square on her break at about 1pm when she bumped into a work colleague. They chatted and when she walked off, she took her iPhone out.

At Norwich Crown Court yesterday Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said: “She was texting somebody and was approached by Cleary from behind who, without warning, grabbed her from behind and put his hand over her mouth.”

He then snatched her right wrist, grabbed her phone and pushed her against a wall.

In a statement the victim said: “The biggest thing for me was the way he carried out he attack.

“The gagging of me from behind made me completely helpless. I will never forget it.”

Mr Ivory said the victim was now too scared to walk through the subway alone.

Andrew Oliver, mitigating, said Cleary had been having problems since leaving home at 16, but was now trying to put his life back together. He said Cleary had jumped from hostels, to bed and breakfasts and slept rough.

“This was not a planned robbery,” he said. “He had not got himself a disguise.

“His intention was to simply get the phone as quickly as he could.”

Cleary avoided jail in December for breaching the terms of a suspended prison sentence, passed for a burglary on a Norwich home last May.

Judge Stephen Holt said: “You have been given enough opportunity at the magistrates’ court.

“I would be failing in my duty if I didn’t pass an immediate sentence.”

He added the attack had “severely affected” the life of the victim. “She has felt nervous and frightened. She is not sleeping well,” he said.

Cleary will serve an extra month in prison for breaching the terms of the suspended prison sentence.

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