Rioting millionaire's daughter 'knew what she was doing'
Monday 19 March 2012
A millionaire's daughter accused of taking part in last summer's riots was not acting under duress, a court was told today.
Laura Johnson, 20, drove looters around and was seen putting a box into the front seat of a car she was driving, Inner London Crown Court was told.
Johnson, of Orpington, south east London, denies three counts of burglary and three alternative counts of handling stolen goods relating to the riots last August.
Sandy Canavan, prosecuting, said: "The prosecution say that any talk of duress is no more than a red herring in this case.
"This is a young lady who exercised extraordinarily bad judgment that night. She knew what she was doing, she did it for whatever reason seemed good to her at the time, but not under duress."
Ms Canavan said that just after midnight in the early morning of Tuesday August 9, a man called Raymond Johnson was driving from Chingford, in east London, to Orpington when he came off the A2 near a large retail park near the O2 leisure park in Greenwich.
He noticed that people were running backwards and forwards from various stores carrying items in their hands.
He pulled over to see what was going on and his attention was drawn to a black car driven by Laura Johnson, who was no relation of his.
He saw a man run from a Currys with a box with Goodmans written on it, which he threw into a bush nearby, before running back to Currys.
"The white female driver of the car, we say that's Ms Johnson, went over, picked up the Goodmans box and put it in the front seat of her car."
Mr Johnson called the police. "He remembers seeing three black men running backwards and forwards to the car, putting things in it," Ms Canavan said.
The people then got into the car and Johnson drove off, followed by Mr Johnson, Ms Canavan said.
At one point he took a picture on his phone, and Johnson did not appear to be particularly distressed in any way.
Finally, Mr Johnson went on to Orpington, but on his way back to Chingford later he drove past the retail park again, and saw the car, which had been stopped by police.
He went over and spoke to police, saying what he had seen, and arrests were made.
Johnson started to rev the engine, with a view to driving off, but police smashed the windscreen to stop her.
Ms Canavan said that Alexander Elliott-Joahill, 18, has pleaded guilty to burglaries and handling stolen goods.
A 17-year-old boy who is appearing with Johnson, who cannot be named, admitted one count of burglary today. He denies two further counts of burglary or handling stolen goods.
Johnson told police that three boys jumped into her car and told her where to go and what to do, Ms Canavan said.
She said she was a bit concerned, and had not expected to be driving around people she did not know, the prosecutor added.
But Johnson said in her defence case statement that there was talk of stabbing people, talk of a gun, and one man had been playing footage on a mobile phone of someone being tortured.
Ms Canavan said: "The prosecution say, if what you are saying is true, the time to have said it is when you were safely with the police."
And she added: "Getting out and helping yourself to the Goodmans box discarded by one of the other individuals is hardly the action of someone who is being forced to drive around."
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.
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