Bullies, 13, jailed for playground reign of terror

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TWO playground bullies who ran a protection racket which terrorised pupils were yesterday locked up.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that the two teenagers, both aged 13, led a "gang of young thugs" who intimidated, abused and bullied other more vulnerable pupils into handing over lunch money and bus fares. The self- styled Gang on the Wall was broken up when they were arrested.

Yesterday Judge David Bentley, who ordered the boys to be detained, told them: "Bullying is always unpleasant for the young victims and I am quite satisfied that there was dreadful bullying going on. There was a protection racket being run by a gang of young thugs."

The court heard that the boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, ran the protection racket at a comprehensive school in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. The school also cannot be identified.

Philip Bingham, for the prosecution, said police began their investigation after a complaint by a boy whose asthma had been made worse by persistent bullying.

"As it progressed it became clear that the bullying of that particular young man was far from being isolated," he said.

"As pupils were arriving at or leaving school they would be approached often by only one member of this gang, sometimes more than one. They would then be frightened into handing over their pocket money, bus fares or dinner money.

"People realised they really had no choice but to hand over their money when approached. There was clearly an atmosphere of fear created in the school."

Another victim was threatened with a knife by one gang member and forced to hand over cash.

Mr Bingham said parents had tried to tell the school authorities but it appeared no action had been taken to stop the gang.

One of the boys, now 14, was "unconcerned" when he was interviewed by police, he added. The boy's barrister, Tony Cranfield, said the teenager was excluded from school in November 1996 and had only been involved for between six to eight weeks. He had since changed his attitude towards bullying.

Roger Thomas, representing the other boy, who is now aged 15, said the boys were not gang leaders but were rather younger members of a bigger group.

The 15-year-old, who had earlier admitted two counts of demanding money with menaces and five of robbery, was ordered to be detained for one year. The other boy, who admitted four robberies, and was detained for nine months.

The gang was charged with 39 offences, including robbery, blackmail, assault and theft. Other members had been dealt with at another court and some had received custodial sentences.

The acting head teacher at the school was at court but declined to comment.

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