Sixth-former jailed for hurling fire extinguisher

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The Independent Online

The teenager who sent a fire extinguisher crashing "terrifyingly close" to police officers during a tuition fees protest in November was jailed yesterday as the judge said it should send a message that such violent protest would not be tolerated.

Despite hearing that Edward Woollard, who was just 18 and on his first unsupervised visit to London for the student demonstrations, had felt "sick" and wracked with remorse, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC insisted this was a particularly bad case of violent disorder. "It is a deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing for a court to have to sentence a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody, but the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can, and this means sending out a very clear message," he said.

As the teenager was led away to begin a sentence of two years and eight months at a young offenders' institution, his mother – who was praised by the judge for her "extraordinary and courageous conduct" in persuading him to turn himself in – broke down in sobs.

Woollard travelled to London on 10 November with fellow students from his sixth-form college near the New Forest in Hampshire to take part in the protest, which descended into violent clashes. He joined demonstrators at Conservative Party headquarters, who stormed the Millbank complex.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Woollard ended up on the roof and grabbed a fire extinguisher that another student had been spraying before emptying it and throwing the 6kg canister down seven floors to crash amidst the crowds.

Five days on from the demo, after being encouraged by his mother Tania Garwood, Woollard gave himself up to police and later pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

"It was a single moment of madness," said his barrister Zahir Hossein. "In a matter of a few seconds he has jeopardised his future and his prospects," he added.

The judge said: "The televised recording of the incident shows that this heavy fire extinguisher fell terrifyingly close to a group of police officers."