Sandra Laville, Guardian (London), August 8, 2012
Rioters who rampaged across west London for four hours, attacking a lone shopkeeper and robbing diners at a Michelin-starred restaurant, have been given some of the harshest sentences for crimes committed during last August’s UK riots.
Most of the 16 young men, aged from 15 to 25, had previous convictions – many for violence. They were members of rival gangs who had put aside their differences in a plan, orchestrated via text and BBM messages, to run amok in one of the most extreme episodes of the urban disorder, inner London crown court heard on Wednesday.
Three were jailed for nine years, and one was given a seven-year term while others were jailed for six years and six-and-a-half years and three received four-year sentences. Only one rioter was given a non-custodial sentence. All but four had previous convictions, and several had breached detention or curfew orders to take part in the rioting, the court heard.
Detective Chief Inspector David Hutcheson said the police were still looking for more than 20 key figures involved in the rioting.
The full story of the violence on 8 August last year, which Judge Usha Karu said was one of the most extreme nights of the four days of urban disorder, can be told now following the end of two trials.
It involved the storming of the Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill. In previously unseen CCTV footage 30 diners are shown diving under tables as rioters burst in, some carrying batons, and sticks and shouting for diners to get on the floor. Watches, cash, jewellery and phones were taken by rioters wielding poles, knives and baseball bats. One woman had her wedding ring pulled off her finger, and a chauffeur waiting in a Bentley outside was attacked.
The court heard that the Ladbroke Blood gang and the Lisson Green Men had put aside rivalries to plan and carry out what the judge said was “carnage”, “mayhem” and “mob criminality”.
One rioter was tackled to the ground by the TV historian Dan Snow.
A three-day sentencing hearing heard how the four-hour rampage included an attack on a shopkeeper, Mohammed Haroon, which was not previously detailed in the extensive coverage of the disorder. Haroon was beaten about the head with a looted champagne bottle by 19-year-old Kalen Hinds in an attack caught on CCTV inside the Super Save shop on Westbourne Park Road.
In the footage, which can only now be shown, Haroon cowers in the corner of the shop, surrounded by masked youths. Hinds can be seen battering him about the head with the bottle.
“They hit me so many times I was very scared,” Haroon told Channel 4 News. “I think they were trying to kill me. After that attack I became dizzy and left the shop. I went out and called the police. The police didn’t pick up.”
Jailing Hinds for nine years for conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to commit violent disorder and the wounding and robbery of Haroon, Karu said the violence was “completely inexcusable”.
Sentencing all 16 – the youngest of whom is a 15-year-old asylum seeker from Sudan – Karu said: “It was a year ago today that you were involved in the mayhem and mob criminality that so disturbed the law abiding public. Today, in stark contrast to those scenes of arson, looting and criminal damage London is hosting the Olympics which demonstrates the excellence that can be achieved in sport as an inspiration to all. However, those involved in these events were involved in the opposite.”
The 16 defendants were among 50 people who rampaged through west London at a time when the police were clearly outnumbered and overwhelmed, the court heard. “The evidence shows this was not a random meeting but a planned campaign between some of you who knew each other as a result of belonging to gangs and communicated with each other by mobile phone,” Karu said. “Two gangs put aside their differences in order to get together to perpetrate the serious disorder. The object was to … cause chaos, damage and to loot.”
Three of the 16 admitted taking part in the Ledbury raid: Anas Ibrahim, 17, was jailed for six years; Ahmed al-Jaf, 19, was jailed for nine years for the Ledbury raid and his part in the attack on Haroon; the 15-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker, who cannot be named, was sentenced to three years in detention.
Hutcheson said afterwards: “These are some of the most significant sentences that have been given for the rioting. These events involved members of several gangs who organised themselves via social media to cause mayhem. Hopefully these sentences will send a strong message to those involved in gangs or those contemplating involvement.”