Chanting 'yellow vest' protesters disrupt court as drink-driver who killed three boys has sentence cut

'As we entered court, the families and their supporters started to chant and barrack the court,' judge says

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 21 December 2018 14:21 GMT
Three teenagers dead after collision at bus stop in Hayes

A drink-driver who killed three teenage boys as they walked to a birthday party has had his prison sentence reduced at a court hearing that was disrupted by protesters.

Judges preparing to hand down their decision on the case of Jaynesh Chudasama at the Court of Appeal were forced to halt proceedings because of shouting and chanting from people in the public gallery, including members of the “yellow vests” group.

Family members of victims Harry Rice, 17, George Wilkinson, 16, and Josh McGuinness, 16, were among about 30 members of the public who attended the Royal Courts of Justice for the decision.

As Sir Brian Leveson and two other judges entered the courtroom on Friday morning some members of the group started shouting and singing.

Sir Brian said he could not hand down the judgment without silence, but the group became louder and the judges withdrew.

After being told by a barrister that Chudasama’s sentence had been reduced from 13 years to 10 and a half, protesters shouted abuse at lawyers and clerks in the court, calling them “scum” and “corrupt”.

Police officers were called to the room alongside security officers, as the hearing was moved to an adjacent court and proceeded without the families present.

Sir Brian said: “The court had wished to hand this judgment down in the presence of anyone interested to hear it. That, of course, included the families of the victims.

“As we entered court, the families and their supporters started to chant and barrack the court, making it quite impossible to hand the judgment down.”

Jaynesh Chudasama, 29 and of Hayes, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving after killing three teenage boys

The judge added: “We have moved to another court in order to hand the judgment down with regret – not because of any disrespect to me or to the other members of the court – but in order that justice can be delivered publicly and in open court.”

He told the court that the written judgement would be available for the families and anyone else interested in the decision.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police confirmed officers were called to reports of “nuisance behaviour within the court”.

No arrests were made and no offences were committed. Demonstrators moved outside the court, where they continued chanting and singing.

Chudasama, now 29, was sentenced at the Old Bailey in March for three offences of causing death by dangerous driving. However, some of his victims’ relatives believe the crash was deliberate, and want him charged with murder.

Tracy Blackwell, Josh’s mother, has suggested the incident was a “terror attack” and accused police and prosecutors of a cover-up.

“We told them that this was all wrong,” she said in a Facebook video following the hearing. “They moved themselves into court five and they never told us parents … they’ve added torture on top of our torture.”

Ms Blackwell has been protesting in support of a no-deal Brexit with a group of far-right demonstrators calling themselves the “yellow vests” in London over the past week. She called on other people to join them.

Fellow “yellow vests” including James Goddard and English Defence League supporter David Coppin were at the hearing.

The ruling said Chudasama’s sentence was reduced because the original sentencing judge at the Old Bailey had “fallen into error” when calculating it by using a basis of consecutive, rather than concurrent, terms.

The maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years’ imprisonment, and the Chudasama’s guilty plea meant it should be reduced by a quarter, the judges said.

He will also be disqualified from driving for 12 years and three months, and have to pass an extended driving test.

Chudasama was more than two and a half times the legal limit for alcohol and doing 71mph in a 60mph zone in Hayes, west London, when he ploughed into the teenagers, sending them flying through the air.

The teenagers had been walking to a 16th birthday party with friends, when the car mounted the pavement and struck them.

Chudasama tried to flee the scene, leaving his victims to die in the road, but was chased down and caught by the boys’ friends.

The car hire worker, who also had traces of cannabis in his system, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

People leave floral tributes in Shepiston Lane, Hayes, where three teenage boys died after a car mounted the pavement

The three teenagers were all friends with “a bright future ahead of them”, the court heard.

Sir Brian added: “The death of each of the victims in this case is a disaster and tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions for them, their families and their friends.

“We have read many statements about the catastrophic impact each has had on so many lives. No sentence of the court can assuage that loss.”

The judges said the court had received a large number of victim personal statements from relatives, including some that showed “real anger” and accused police and prosecutors of wrongdoing.

Ian Rice, Harry’s father, called for Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb to remove herself from the appeal and accused her of bias over her decisions in the Finsbury Park terror attack trial and another case.

But Sir Brian said there was “absolutely no basis” for the judge to be removed, adding: “No fair-minded and informed observer could conceivably conclude that there was a real possibility of bias.”

He noted the “families’ vocal attack on the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in connection with the investigation of these offences”, and their belief that Chudasama had deliberately killed his victims and should have been charged with murder.

“They challenged the adequacy of the charges without success,” the judgement said. “In the light of the evidence we have seen, we can understand why the charges preferred were those of causing death by dangerous driving but, in any event, the decision was not and is not for the court to make.”

Additional reporting by PA

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