The parents of Rhys Jones, the 11-year-old boy shot dead in Liverpool in August 2007 as he walked home from football practice, spoke of their "disgust" last night after a judge ruled that three gang members convicted over the killing will serve only five years in prison between them.
James Yates, 21, a member of a gang that called itself the Croxteth Crew, was given a seven-year sentence. He supplied the 1915 Smith & Wesson gun used by the murderer Sean Mercer, 18, and also helped dump the weapon and Mercer's clothing. After time on remand is taken into account, he will serve two years and nine months.
Nathan Quinn, 18, and Dean Kelly, 17, were sentenced for assisting Mercer. Quinn will serve a year and Kelly 15 months. As the trio were led from the dock at Liverpool Crown Court they cheered with delight, smiling and winking at friends and family in the public gallery. A security guard could be heard telling them to be quiet.
Rhys's parents, Stephen and Melanie Jones, broke their silence to call the sentences "a disgrace".
"We are disgusted at the seven-year sentence given to Sean Mercer's accomplice, James Yates, today," they said. "In our minds, he is the one who provided the gun that killed our son and he deserved a longer sentence. We feel seven years is a disgrace. These sentences can in no way compensate for the loss of our loving son." Last month Mercer, of Croxteth, was jailed for a minimum 22-year term.
After Rhys bled to death in his mother's arms in the car park of Croxteth's Fir Tree pub, Yates was at the centre of a plan to avoid justice. He rushed to Mercer's aid as they converged at the home of Boy M (who cannot be named for legal reasons) with Nathan Quinn.
Quinn is already serving five years for possession of a gun. He accompanied the gang on a trip to nearby Kirkby where Mercer was doused with petrol to remove gunshot residue. Quinn was convicted unanimously by a jury of helping to dump the murder weapon and Mercer's clothes.
He was due to be released from his current sentence in June 2010 – imposed for trying to buy a gun just weeks after Rhys's murder. Yesterday he was jailed for two more years. He will serve just one and be released in June 2011. He pulled a smile of gleeful surprise at the public gallery as he was led from the dock.
Kelly, of Croxteth, was sentenced to four years for possession of guns, ammunition and assisting an offender. Boy M, who has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and was previously beaten up by his gang mates for "grassing", was given a two-year supervision order with a four-month 7pm to 7am curfew.
James Hughes, 22, of Croxteth, was jailed for six months for lying to police about Boy M's whereabouts when Rhys was killed.
After the sentencing, and before the comments by Rhys's parents, Det Supt Dave Kelly of Merseyside Police, said: "Ultimately nothing can bring Rhys back, but we hope that his family can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served."Reuse content