A mob that enticed police to a pub at the pinnacle of last years race related riots before opening fire on officers and even fired on the police helicopter has been given sentences of up to 30 years.
More than 40 men, mostly donning masks or hoods, firebombed the Bartons Arms pub near Villa Park, home of Aston Villa F.C, as the disturbances spread from London to Birmingham in August 2011.
Birmingham Crown Court was told that the tribe attacked the pub to draw officers into the area and once officers arrived fired at least 12 shots from at least four handguns both at officers and at the police helicopter in what the judge described as a concerted and potentially catastrophic attack.
Judge William Davis said “The purpose of all this was not to loot or to steal,””Nor was it mindless vandalism.
The purpose, the common purpose, was to behave in such a way that the police would come to the scene and then to attack the police.”
The predominately black gang were sentenced on Thursday at the end of a six-week trial – including Nicholas Francis, 26, who was sentenced to 30 years and was described by the judge as “clearly a dangerous man”.
Jermaine Lewis, 27, was jailed for 23 years, Tyrone Laidley, 20, was also jailed for 23 years while Renardo Farrell, 20, and Wayne Collins, 25, were both jailed for 18 years.
A 17-year-old, who can be named as Amirul Rehman after the judge lifted an order, was jailed for 12 years.
Francis, Lewis, Laidley, Farrell, and Collins were convicted of riot, reckless arson and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Rehman was found guilty of riot and firearms possession with intent.
The Judge said: “The intention was to endanger life. Although no physical injury was suffered, that was wholly a matter of luck.
Had the police helicopter been struck, the consequences could have been catastrophic. There may have been no physical injury to a police officer, but the damage to the wellbeing of the city of Birmingham caused by an armed gang prepared to act in this way was grave. It is very difficult to conceive a case of this type more serious than this one.”
The gang started its assault on the 9th August, breaking windows and hurling chairs and tables onto the pavement. The court heard that some went into the pub with petrol bombs while others aimed bottles and bricks at a passing police car.
When a large contingency of police arrived they were attacked with bricks, steel tubes and furniture before officers heard gunshots and were forced to take cover before being given the order to retreat for their own safety.
The court heard police realised they were actually being shot at when they heard the windows of the building behind them being obliterated by gun fire.
Soon after the gang ran off and at one point a member of the group aimed a handgun at the police helicopter and fired a shot. Other members of the group then appeared to hand him more ammunition.
As the attack was taking place four members of staff, two men and two women, racked with fear of their lives, hid in an upstairs room of the pub.
“For all but one of these defendants the position is aggravated by the fact that they were party to arson at the Bartons Arms in circumstances which put the lives of those within the public house at risk,” said Davis.
“The defendants were completely indifferent to the welfare of those upstairs. All they were interested in was luring the police to the area.
The fact that members of staff looking on helplessly upstairs were put in real fear and no little danger meant nothing to them.”
After the trial had finished, Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Cann said the incident had a deep effect on his officers.
“This could easily have been a murder inquiry.
Officers came close to being shot and, in a worse case scenario, the helicopter could have been brought down. Thankfully officers were not injured but we can’t underestimate the impact it’s had on those involved.”
Neil Fielding, from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said the prosecution had been “enormously challenging”.
“The CPS and the police have worked tirelessly together to bring the offenders to justice within a very tight timescale, both to protect the community from the threat these people posed and to ensure continuing public confidence in the criminal justice system following the events of lawlessness last August.”
However, Davis conceded that many of those responsible may never be brought to justice.
“They may never be identified because of the poor quality of the available CCTV footage and because those involved had their faces covered.”
The shocking video of the incident can be seen below.