Boy with hammer in riots 'too young to be locked up'
Published 13/08/2011 | 05:00
A boy of 13 caught on the streets armed with a hammer during the riots in England this week has walked free from court after a judge said he was too young to be locked up.
The teenager was stopped by police in Manchester on Wednesday and he volunteered that he had a hammer strapped to his leg.
Yesterday, a judge told him that had he "been 15", he would have been locked up.
The case came amid growing concern that young offenders involved in the disturbances were walking from court without significance penalties. Their anonymity is also protected when they appear in court.
Figures released by the British Ministry of Justice showed that almost one-fifth of those charged with offences in connection with the disturbances were under 18.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, became the latest senior politician to call for tougher penalties.
He said: "I would expect anybody involved in looting, anybody involved in violence, should expect to receive a custodial sentence."
London Mayor Boris Johnson said the most serious rioters, especially those who attacked firemen, "deserved very serious penalties".
The boy had gone into the city after being invited by friends on Facebook, Manchester Magistrates' Court heard.
He was stopped by two police officers and, when asked if he had anything he should not have, he replied: "I am not going to lie to you. I have this hammer, it is not a big one."
He initially told police his mother had asked him to carry the hammer for protection, but this turned out to be untrue, the court heard.
Passing sentencing, District Judge Khalid Qureshi said: "If you had been 15 you would be going straight through that door (to the cells). No question about it. Nothing your mum would have said would have prevented that happening.''
The boy, who had no previous convictions and cannot be named for legal reasons, was given a nine-month referral order -- a mixture of community work and intervention programmes.
He told the court it was the "worst, stupidest thing I have ever done".
His mother said she was "disgusted" with her son and had grounded him as a punishment.
She was ordered to pay £85 (€97) costs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)