Teenagers' 'happy slapping' sentences to be reviewed

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The Independent Online

The Attorney General will review the sentences of two teenage members of a "happy slapping" gang who killed a grandfather in a bid to determine whether they were too lenient, it was announced today.

Leon Elcock, 16, and Hamza Lyzai, 15, were detained for four-and-a-half years and three-and-a-half years respectively after they attacked Ekram Haque in Tooting, south London, last August.

Dominic Grieve has called for the papers in the case to assess whether the sentences handed down by Old Bailey judge Martin Stephens on Monday were too lenient, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said.

"We will examine it in the usual way under the unduly lenient sentences procedure," he said.

Mr Haque cracked his head after being struck to the ground, suffering irreparable brain damage, and died a week after the assault last August.

Elcock and Lyzai, both from Tooting, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and also admitted their parts in other assaults in which, the court heard, they had "targeted people for fun".

A third youth, aged 15, who cannot be named, was locked up for six months after admitting, with Elcock, to actual bodily harm against a couple in their 70s.

Mr Haque's death was the culmination of a series of "happy slapping" incidents which were recorded on mobile phone footage and showed youths running off and laughing afterwards.

Outside court, Mr Haque's son Arfan, 35, said: "I thought justice has not been served today. I have been really let down.

"The CPS really need to buck up their ideas because people are getting away with murder. My father died. It's a disgrace."

He had told the court in a statement: "It is tragic that he died in the way he did because he was a very peaceful man."

He said his daughter had been traumatised by what happened because she had a special relationship with her grandfather.

Both killers will be released on licence after serving half their sentences, minus nearly a year they have already been in custody, while the 15-year-old has effectively completed his sentence already.

The judge said his powers of sentence in relation to the assaults were "very limited" because of the defendants' ages.

Earlier, the judge told Mr Haque's killers: "As a result of your so-called bit of fun he was deprived of a full and contented life and his family of a devoted, inspiring and beloved father and grandfather."

He lifted restrictions on naming the pair as a warning to others "who may be tempted to indulge in such appalling behaviour".

Elcock was on bail for the assault on the elderly couple at the time he took part in the killing of Mr Haque.

He and the 15-year-old had attacked Jasumati Patel, 72, and her husband, Jushbhai Patel, 78, on August 26.

"When they asked you and others perfectly reasonably to leave their garden wall, you pushed them into their house where you punched and kicked them," the judge told the pair.

He told Elcock that although he was caught and bailed: "That did not deter you."

All three defendants also admitted actual bodily harm against retired Atta-ul Hassan Mir and Imdad Bukari as they chatted outside the mosque just before the attack on Mr Haque on August 31 - with Mr Mir being knocked unconscious.

Police later recovered six video clips of "happy slapping" incidents in which youths would shout out "Lane Gang Productions" and showed youths running off jeering and laughing.

One showed a bus driver being slapped over the head while others showed people being attacked as they were sleeping or riding bicycles.

The judge told the three defendants it was "what you saw as fun" and that they were "disgraceful incidents".

They had "committed a series of of very serious cowardly and deeply unpleasant assaults offences against elderly and vulnerable men and women".

"The attacks were entirely gratuitous and done without thought for your victims," the judge said.

It was a "concerted, planned attack" which led to Mr Haque's death, he added.

"The blow or blows launched on this gentleman led directly to his death. He fell to the ground, cracked his head, and suffered irreparable brain damage."

Footage of the incident was captured on CCTV.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said: "These were unwarranted, cowardly attacks. They targeted people for fun."