Boy, 11, youngest at riot court

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The Independent Online

An 11-year-old boy was among scores of rioters and looters to appear before magistrates today.

The boy, from Romford, Essex, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Highbury Corner Youth Court where he admitted being part of a gang of youths who looted the town's Debenhams store on Monday night.

His appearance came as court staff ploughed through the massive influx of cases from recent riots in London.

Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court, in north London, sat throughout last night to deal with cases, and is likely to again tonight.

Defendants ranged in age, from different parts of London, but the boy stood out as the youngest defendant to appear in Highbury today.

Wearing a blue Adidas tracksuit, the youngster spoke only to confirm his name, age and date of birth.

He pleaded guilty to burglary, after stealing a waste bin worth £50 from Debenhams. A charge of violent disorder was dropped.

During the brief hearing the court heard the boy has already been given a referral order after being convicted of a separate offence just last week. No details of the conviction were given.

Prosecutor Steven Davis told the court: "This was 10.30pm on Monday evening with a background of serious violence in Romford.

"Police saw a group of 20-30 youths who were approaching large stores, breaking windows and looting.

"They saw Debenhams had had its windows broken and they saw (the boy) approach the window that had been smashed, lean in, take a waste bin and run off with it."

He said when police stopped the boy, he said: "I was just taking it to pass on to somebody else."

Mr Davis said the bin was worth £50. The damage to the windows was £6,000 but it is not alleged the boy broke them.

Defending the 11-year-old, Vicky Thompson said he was given a referral order after being convicted last Wednesday, but it had not even begun yet.

She asked for a pre-sentence report to be carried out before the boy is sentenced.

The boy's case was adjourned until August 31 at Havering Youth Court.

Miss Thompson asked that his mother requested that "in the light of everything that is going on" a condition of his bail should be that he is not allowed to leave his home unaccompanied.

"She wants to keep him safe and not allow him to get caught up in this," she said.

District Judge James Henderson granted bail, with what he said are "very restricted conditions".

They are that the boy has to live and sleep at his home address and is on a curfew between 6pm and 6am, but the judge said the law does not allow him to impose an electronic tag.

He also told the boy: "You are not to leave your home address in any event unless you are accompanied by your nan, grandad, or your dad or your mum.

"Do you understand?"

The boy replied: "Yeah".

The boy's mother shouted and swore at some members of the gathered media as she left the court, and could later be seen shouting at the boy, who left separately, and taking him back into the court.

The boy was just one of a steady stream of defendants, from teenagers to people in their 40s, appearing in court today.

Many were committed to crown court for sentence by magistrates because of the seriousness of the situation, yet most were granted bail.

They included primary school worker Alexis Bailey, 31, from Wye Street in Battersea, south London, who was arrested in Richer Sounds in Southend Road, Croydon, and today pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to steal.

Bailey, who, the court heard, works full-time in a primary school in Stockwell and lives with his parents, was given bail but must adhere to a curfew.

His case, along with many others, was committed to Wood Green Crown Court for sentencing.

Chairman of the magistrates Melvyn Marks told the court many of the cases had aggravating features, occurring "in the middle of a very violent riot", which meant magistrates had insufficient sentencing powers.

"Because of the nature of this offence and because of the circumstances, we have taken the view that there are too many aggravating features on this case and our powers of punishment are not enough."

Many cases echoed the crimes caught on camera as people looted across the capital.

Crimes heard today included looting at a Costco warehouse; people caught stealing clothes from shops which had been ransacked; and two men caught pushing a shopping trolley full of power tools which they claim they "found".

Student David Attoh, 18, from Retreat Place, Hackney, was caught on August 8 in Hackney, with two Burberry T-shirts.

Attoh, who the court heard has completed an ICT B-Tech at Hackney Community College and was due to have an interview for an apprenticeship on Tuesday, admitted theft by finding.

The student, who was fined £150, had been receiving education maintenance allowance (EMA) while completing his B-Tech, but over the summer was supported by his mother, the court heard.

Mr Marks told him: "Don't get in trouble again.

"You have a bright future ahead of you, if you get into trouble again you are going to jeopardise that future."

Nineteen-year-old Adam Ozdas, from Hindrey Road, Hackney, who is due to start a college course next month, denied a charge of receiving stolen goods.

He was stopped by police in Clarence Road, Hackney, and found to be in possession of a large bottle of Southern Comfort, a large number of National Lottery scratchcards, tobacco, £90 in cash, and confectionery, the court heard.

Prosecutor Abiodun Kadri said: "He stated that he found the items on the road and that he was going to hand them into a police station."

Ozdas pleaded not guilty and was granted conditional bail to appear again next month.

Many defendants appeared blase over their court appearances, often giving little reaction.

But Christopher Heart, 23, from Chingford, who admitted stealing a pair of Lacoste trainers and a body warmer from JD Sports in Hackney on Monday night, was visibly upset, drying his eyes on his T-shirt, as the court heard his girlfriend has been diagnosed with cancer.

Heart, a scaffolder and father of two, was given conditional bail to stay at his girlfriend's house, as well as a curfew.

As he left the court he apologised to magistrates for the "inconvenience" caused by recent riots.

Several courts are expected to sit all night again tonight to cope with the volume of cases.

The Courts Service said there was "provision" to deal with the cases, but would not confirm how many courts would be open tonight.