Judge has no powers to jail 13-year old "hammer boy"
A judge said today that he had no powers to jail a 13-year-old boy who went into a riot-hit city with a hammer strapped to his leg.
The boy visited Manchester with the weapon in response to a Facebook invitation from friends to watch the trouble unfold.
He was stopped by two officers on patrol 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."
Manchester Magistrates' Court heard that he initially lied to police, saying his mother had asked him to carry it for protection, and also falsely claimed he wanted it for self- defence.
He was given a nine-month referral order after he pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon without lawful excuse.
Sentencing him, 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 stupidity of arming yourself with a weapon is unbelievable.
"Never, never does it make it a less dangerous situation to arm yourself with a hammer, particularly upon an occasion when there was chaos at the time. The whole situation was far more tense than ordinarily it would have been."
He said in such cases Parliament had deemed that youngsters deserved a second chance at such at a young age.
The boy, who had no previous convictions and cannot be named for legal reasons, will now work with a youth team to address his behaviour.
The judge noted he had the advantage of not having to disclose the conviction when applying for a college place or job in future.
He warned him: "I do not give people a second chance."
Before he passed sentence, he asked the boy, who was wearing jeans and a red Adidas hooded top, what he had to say for himself.
The teenager replied: "To be honest, it's the worst, stupidest thing I have ever done."
The judge asked: "What will happen if you are invited to a riot again?"
"I am not going to go," said the boy. "That is a promise."
Addressing the court, his mother told the judge: "Since then I have not allowed him out of the house. He is not allowed to speak to any of his friends. His friend rang him eight times yesterday and I just cut him off.
"I was disgusted (with him). I will not have it.
"The day before I was explaining to him I was disgusted about what other people were doing to the place where we live."
The judge asked how he was before the incident.
"Perfect," she said. "I know everyone says that, but all he does is 'Can I put the Xbox on? Can I have my dinner? Can I have this?', then he gets dressed and sits back down."
She said his school reports had been "brilliant".
Gareth Brandon, prosecuting, said the boy was stopped in the city centre on Wednesday and showed the officers the hammer attached to his right lower leg.
He said: "During his interview, he said he had seen the riots on the television and wanted to watch them. He heard two people had been stabbed and was going to use the hammer to warn anyone off."
He accepted his mother did not know about the hammer.
The boy's solicitor said he started receiving the Facebook messages at about 7pm.
His mother had said he was easily led.
She thought he was at a barbecue with his older sister but was worried when he did not return home and had reported him missing to police.
She was ordered to pay £85 costs.
Following sentencing, the boy stood up and said: "Can I ask one question? When will I get my phone back?"
The judge replied: "I would have thought that is the least of your worries at this point."