Teenagers jailed for racist attack on Asian children

James Peters, 18, was in a gang of up to 100 youthswho hunted and cornered the children, aged 11 and 14, who were playing close to their school. Two 11-year-old boys were beaten to the ground and a boy of 14, who had stepped in to help his friends, was punched, hit with a log, stamped on and kicked unconscious.

The attackers kept shouted racist abuse throught the assault. Peters, 17 at the time, was convicted of the beatings with four accomplices, but had fled court during a break in earlier legal proceedings.

Jason Brassington, 17, was said to be the catalyst and recruiting officer for the attack. Brassington was not a pupil at Counthill school in Oldham, Greater Manchester, which the Asian boys attended, but he had gone there and threw stones at Asian pupils. He then got into a fight with one pupil who was trying to defend others.

The next day, Brassington, who has two brothers of mixed race, assembled a mob of up to 100 youths from the local, predominantly white Moorside estate and at lunchtime arrived at the school, and shouted racist abuse and waved sticks. Raza Ali and Aadil Nabil, both 11, and Raza Shan, 14, were playing football in the playground. They fled but were caught and beaten.

Peters told police he punched one of the children then head-butted a second. Despite these admissions, he denied three counts of racially aggravated assault.

Ali and Shan, now 12 and 15 who are cousins, have changed school. Witness statements read in court revealed how the older boy's class grades dropped and said he was frightened to play outside. The younger boy's father, Asgher Ali, 40, said it was the family's first experience of racial violence since they arrived from Kashmir in the early 1980s.

District Judge Alan Berg condemned the "unbridled racist thuggery", saying Peters had shown "no mercy". He added: "You behaved like a pack of wolves; seeking, stalking and chasing your prey. You showed no mercy. Indeed, you have showed little or no contrition or remorse." The judge rejected claims that the Asian children had provoked the gang as an "utter distortion". "You were part of a gang, an important and active part, who attacked the students simply because they were Asian," he said.

Brassington, 17, Brandon Crossley 16, Stephen Lees, 16, and Michael Culkin, 16, all from Oldham, had also denied charges of racially aggravated violence. Brassington, Crossley and Lees were detained in young offenders' institutions and Culkin was given a community-based punishment.

Oldham has tried to foster racial harmony since race riots in the town four years ago, though the Ritchie Commission set up to investigate those disturbances questioned how committed it was to the process.

Asian taxi-drivers still bear the brunt of white racism and many have been lured into the town's Abbeyhills district by hoax calls, only to find themselves on the receiving end of racial abuse and stone-throwing. Mosques in the town have been sent hate mail.