A GANG of Asian yobs were taken on a council funded trip to a theme park by to avoid trouble at an English Defence League March – only to kick off when they got there.
The five teenagers were driven to Blackpool Pleasure Beach by Sandwell Council amid fears they could become embroiled in the EDL event in Dudley, West Mids.
But when they got there they got into a fight which left bystander Derek Brownhill unconscious and with bruising and swelling to his face and head, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The day trip cost the public purse more than GBP2,113 and saw the group, who were aged 17 and 19 and from the Tipton and Oldbury areas of the West Midands, accompanied by a police officer and officials from the council.
The excursion turned ugly when they yobs confronted the father-of-two, who was travelling on a coach parked nearby that had travelled from the Kingswinford area.
Prosecutor David Swinnerton told the court that the teenagers – Riad Hussain, Wasim Telhat, Fahad Atiq, Raja Rashid and Mazahar Taheir – were part of a large group of Asian and Muslim youths that were taken to Blackpool by coach on July 17 last year.
He said: “The five defendants were part of a group of 19 Asian and Muslim males specifically taken to Blackpool by a police officer and five other officials from Sandwell Borough Council for the purpose of distracting them from anti-social behaviour on the day of the EDL march in Dudley.
“Mr Brownhill was punched and hit with such force by Riad Hussain that both feet left the ground and he ended up unconscious for a brief period.”
Members of the group were heard chanting racist comments towards the coach, in the earshot of Mr Brownhill’s pregnant partner, two young daughters and a group of elderly people, the court heard.
The group of lads then gave 19-year-old Hussain, from Oldbury, a bruise on his face so they could try to claim that his actions were in self defence.
At the time of the violence, two of the gang were on bail for a hammer attack in Tipton, West Mids, that took place three months before the Blackpool incident.
Three of the defendants were jailed for up to 21 months by Judge Amjad Nawaz yesterday (TUE), who told them: “There is nothing more disturbing than to have to sentence a dock full of young people just past their childhood years having engaged in offences of such severity that custodial sentences are inevitable.”
Sandwell Council said today/yest (WED) the trip to Blackpool had been organised with the support of police to help reduce tensions and deter teenagers who may have been at risk of getting involved in demonstrations in Dudley on the day.
The council said the GBP2,113.42 cost of the trip was met by the Government’s Youth Justice Board.
It said although it had no plans to do anything similar in the future, it would have to consider removing young people from situations in an attempt to prevent them from getting into trouble.
Councillor Derek Rowley, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for safer neighbourhoods, said: “Clearly, this was a very unfortunate incident which we totally condemn.
“We have a duty to foster good community relations and we will continue to work with local people and all our partner organisations towards that aim.”
In total, 19 youngsters went on the trip. Eight were aged 16 or above and 11 were under 16.
In addition, there were five youth workers and one police officer, who went on a voluntary basis.
Ch Supt Mark Robinson, commander for Sandwell Police, said today/yest (WED): “A decision was taken by Safer Sandwell Partnership to take a number of youths away from the area, who had been identified as having the potential to get involved in any disorder that could occur as a result of the demonstrations.
“Whilst we feel that the decision to try and prevent any potential violence among local youths was the right one, clearly the events that followed were hugely disappointing.”
The council-organised trip has been defended by a race equality executive.
Race Equality Sandwell chief executive Derrick Campbell, who is also a Government adviser on tackling anti-social behaviour, defended the trip.
He said he knew about the day-long excursion and had supported it because it was believed the youths who were sent could be aggressors as well as targets in the EDL march.
“I would not say the trip had failed,” he said.
“Its purpose was to keep them away from the English Defence League march.
“If they got involved in something else in Blackpool, that’s another matter.”
Judge Amjad Nawaz jailed Rashid for a total of 21 months and Atiq for a total of 16 months for their parts in the assault in Tipton and the incident in Blackpool. Hussain was jailed for 10 months.
Telhat was given a community order for 12 months and 12-month supervision order as well as 50 hours’ unpaid work, while Tahier was ordered to do a 12-month rehabilitation order, as well as being supervised by the Probation Service for 12 months.