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The "pack of dogs" - spared jail by a soft Croydon judge

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A GANG of thugs who attacked three Afghan men in a mistaken revenge attack on a tram have been spared jail.

Six men, including two youths, were handed suspended sentences, youth rehabilitation orders and unpaid work, at Croydon Crown Court on Tuesday.

A seventh, serving prisoner, Anthony Patton, was sentenced the day before to 12 months in prison, to run concurrently with the 15 months he has left to serve for his part in a burglary gang.

Judge Shani Barnes said the men, all from New Addington, had behaved "like a pack of dogs" on the night of October 1, 2011, and should be "ashamed".

But she also spared six of the seven jail – saying "all of you sitting in the dock are charming, polite and well-mannered."

The court heard how the group cornered their victims inside a tram at King Henry's Drive stop at about 8pm, after assaulting another man at the petrol station opposite.

They wrongly believed the three men on the tram had earlier attacked their friend at a funfair, because the men were Afghan and they had been told their friend's attackers were Afghan.

Prosecuting, Teresa Hay said: "These boys [defendants] clearly wanted a fight and asked the Afghans were we with the others – a question, it transpired, perhaps to relate to an earlier incident at the funfair.

"The reply for these boys was to say no, whereupon they were punched by the group.

"When the tram finally arrived the Afghan boys got on to it, hoping this would finally bring an end to their incident.

"However, one of the group [attackers] pulled the emergency cord on the tram, which had the effect of stopping the tram from moving."

CCTV footage played in court showed one of the men, now 17, whose identity the judge banned the Advertiser from revealing due to his age, entering the tram and beckoning others on.

A second man, also now 17 and whose name the judge also banned us from revealing, enters the tram. He is followed by more than ten others, who start kicking and punching the victims.

Kieran Hawker, 18, of North Downs Road, filled a black sock with ballast from the tram tracks to chuck at the men, the court heard.

The ballast is seen to strike the three victims and others on the tram, narrowly missing a pregnant woman.

Robert Elsey, 19, of Godric Crescent, meanwhile, is seen using the tram's handlebars to "launch a swinging kick" at two of the victims trapped against the doorway.

Dean Riley, 19, of Cator Crescent, did not board the tram – hence a lesser sentence of six months suspended – but was seen on CCTV at the petrol station.

All the defendants, who also included Aaron Henery, 18, had earlier pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Judge Barnes said she was "quite sure" the CCTV showed the boys at their "absolute worst," adding: "I have no doubt that individually all of you sitting in the dock are charming, polite and well-mannered."

But she said: "I am not exaggerating when I say that your behaviour on that night was like a pack of dogs.

"Even small dogs that nip around the ankles in a pack can be terrifying, and you were a pack."

She had the power to sentence the adults to a maximum of five years in prison, and put the youths (and one adult who was a youth when he pleaded guilty) on a two-year detention and training order.

But she opted for non-custodial sentences, adding: "What looked like a ten-minute ordeal was just under one minute of violence."

Lawyers for the defendants had promised Judge Barnes that their clients were contrite and turning their lives around.

Hawker's bid for mercy was helped by his letter to Judge Barnes, which she described as "one of the loveliest letters I have received in a very long time".

The victims, aged 18, 19, and 21 at the time, did not suffer serious injuries before plain-clothed police officers arrived and the attackers ran away.

However, one of them was, as of last year, still suffering headaches and poor vision due to the attack .

The judge added: "He now has very little confidence, is very wary of groups of young other males and is afraid of going out on his own.

"There are serious consequences and I hope you would all be ashamed."


SENTENCES
Anthony Patton , 27, of no fixed address, received a 12-month custodial sentence, to run concurrently with a four-year sentence he is already serving for his role in a burglary gang. Kieran Hawker , 18, of North Downs Road, was handed a 13-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, an 18-month supervision order, and 100 hours unpaid work. Aaron Henery , 18, of Milne Park East, was given an 18-month rehabilitation order, an 18-month supervision order, and a specified activity requirement. Robert Elsey , 19, of Godric Crescent, was given a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, an 18-month supervision order, and 36 hours at attendance centre. Dean Riley , 19, of Cator Crescent, was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, a 12-month supervision order, and must attend offender rehabilitation. as directed by probation. A 17-year-old boy from Croydon was given an 18-month youth rehabilitation order, an 18-month supervision order, and 100 hours unpaid work. A second 17-year-old boy from Croydon was given an 12-month youth rehabilitation order, an 12-month supervision order, and 100 hours unpaid work.
JUDGE CRITICISED THE failure to send six of the attackers to jail has sparked anger in New Addington. Ward councillor Tony Pearson questioned "what sort of message" the non-custodial sentences send out. He said: "Here you have got an incident where a crime was reported, an investigation done, it was put before the courts, they pleaded guilty, and then the courts do not take action against them. "If want to send out a message that violent behaviour and crime won't be tolerated, then the courts need to do their bit. "This could easily have been a murder inquiry or attempted murder inquiry. "I think people need to take responsibility for their actions – at the end of the day they have committed an offence and they need to be punished for that. "The question is, does the punishment fit the crime?"

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