Teenagers ‘terrorised’ Muslim community in Cradley Heath

Five teenagers are accused of being involved in an eight-day racially-motivated crime spree in Cradley Heath. The five, all aged 15 and 16 and who all live in the Sandwell area, are facing varying racially-aggravated charges following four incidents in Cradley Heath and Old Hill in October last year.

Prosecuting solicitor Miss Rachael Ward told Sandwell Youth Court yesterday that the spree included assaults on an eight-year-old boy and two elderly men, all of whom were Muslim, as well as the damage to a car belonging to a Muslim man.

In the first incident, on October 16, a 68-year-old Muslim man was verbally abused by a group of four males before being hit by one of them while walking at the corner of Trinity Street and Lawrence Lane. Giving evidence through an interpreter at court yesterday he said: “First they swore at me, then they tried to hit me. I don’t know which part of my body was touched by their hands, but I then sat down. Their hands touched me here or there, I didn’t get any injury or damage, but a white lad then also kicked me.” He added: “I was scared that they were going to beat me.” The victim said that he was only attacked by one of the gang.

The court was told that the second incident took place the next day, when a 70-year-old man was walking back from his mosque in Highgate Street and approached by a group of eight or nine males. He faced verbal abuse, which the victim said was racist, before being kicked assaulted with kicks, again by only one male. He claimed some of the others were also telling his attacker to ‘hit him, hit him’. He told the court: “I said to them ‘I’m an old man, don’t kick me, don’t touch me and leave me alone’ but when I said to them I was going to call the police they left.” He could not positively identify any of the males, as it was dark and his eyesight is poor.

During the third incident on October 20, Miss Ward said a car containing a male victim was surrounded by five boys while it was parked at KFC on Reddal Hill Road, and that they kicked his car to such an extent that it was written off.

In the final incident on October 24, Miss Ward said a mother, her seven-year-old daughter and two sons, aged eight and three, were leaving the mosque on Plant Street when they were faced with a number of youths. The mother told the court giving evidence at court, said they were racially abused and sworn at before the eight-year-old boy was spit at and slapped across the head by one of the gang. During a police interview, which was played to the court, the eight-year-old said: “I was scared. I thought he was going to get his gang friends and bully me.”

None of the five defendants can be named for legal reasons. The charges being faced, which are all denied by all of the defendants, include using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress and using such words so that people would believe violence would be used against them, and criminal damage. A 17-year-old boy, who also cannot be named, has already pleaded guilty to three racially-aggravated assaults, criminal damage, and harassment with words in relation to the same incidents.

The case continues.

Express & Star, 30 April 2014