Poll-tax rioter jailed after 5 years on run

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The Independent Online
A leading poll-tax rioter seen by millions on television hurling a post through the window of a police car, was jailed for two years and 10 months at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Nicholas Jeffries, 33, appeared in court more than five years after the riot in Trafalgar Square, which was described as containing "the most violent scenes of disorder this century". Police officers said that the riot, which caused pounds 6m damage and left more than 500 police injured, was the most frightening event of their careers. "At times ... they actually feared for their lives," said Jonathan Laidlaw, for the prosecution.

Before sentencing, Mr Justice Hooper was shown video footage of the riot in which Jeffries attacked police vehicles.Dexter Diaz, for the defence, said that Jeffries had not gone to the demonstration intent on violence, as he was with his pregnant girlfriend, but he had "over-reacted" when he saw a police vehicle drive into the crowd at some speed and knock down a demonstrator.

The officer injured in Jeffries' attack, PC Robert Huntley, said it was only when he saw a video of the incident that he realised how frightening it was.

Jeffries was identified from film and photographs of the scene by an officer at Shepton Mallett prison, Somerset, where he was on the run from a 15-month sentence. But by the time police knew who he was, he had fled to Sweden. He finally settled in Holland where he was arrested at the beginning of this year for travelling on a tram without a ticket. British police applied for his extradition, but Jeffries waived his rights of appeal and returned voluntarily.

At the Old Bailey yesterday, Jeffries denied the more serious charges of riot and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to PC Huntley, and his guilty pleas to the lesser charges of violent disorder and assault occasioning actual bodily harm were accepted by the Crown.

Mr Laidlaw said that although most of the demonstrators were peaceful, a "hard core" had been bent on using the demonstration as an excuse to attack police and property. Jeffries had played "a leading part" in the violence which began when the marchers reached Downing Street, and peaked in Trafalgar Square when police were attacked with wood, crash barriers and lumps of concrete torn from the pavement.

Jeffries, originally from Clevedon in Avon, has previous convictions for drug smuggling, assault and motoring offences.