In the Media

Birmingham riots: judge appeals for calm as eight cleared of murder

PUBLISHED July 19, 2012

Haroon Jahan, 20, ShazadAli, 31, and Abdul Musavir, 30, were protecting local businesses when it was claimed they were deliberatly mown down in a modern-day equivalent of a "chariot charge" involving three cars in Winson Green, Birmingham.

But today eight men in the cars were cleared of three counts of murder each by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court today after just over four hours of deliberations.

Ryan Goodwin, Shaun Flynn, Juan Ruiz-Gaviria, Joshua Donald, Everton Graham, Adam King, Ian Beckford and Aaron Parkins all walked free.

After the verdicts, the trial judge, Mr Justice Flaux appealed for calm on the streets of Birmingham and urged people to respect the jury's findings.

The judge said: "On any view, this has been a terrible case - a tragic and pointless loss of three young lives.

"However, by their verdicts the jury have decided that this was not a deliberate killing, that there was no plan to kill these three young men.

"The jury have decided that this was a terrible accident."

The judge, who said the deaths occurred at a time of unprecedented civil disorder, added: "It is important that however strong feelings are within the community in Winson Green and adjacent areas, that calm is maintained and that these verdicts are respected.

"Any other action would not be honouring those who died. In fact, quite the reverse. What happened on the streets of Birmingham and other cities last August should never be repeated."

Addressing the relatives of the dead men, he said: "I know this has been really terrible for you, don't think I don't know that.

"I know Mr Jahan has done wonderful things for the city in ensuring we didn't have a complete conflagration last August.

"Can I please ask you to remain calm and so far as it humanly possible to put everything that happened last August behind you and look to the future.

"Throughout the trial you have all behaved in a most dignified way and I am very grateful for that."

The prosecution alleged that all eight defendants were party to a plan to drive a vehicle at a crowd of people in Dudley Road, Winson Green, in the early hours of August 10.

It was alleged that a Ford Fiesta and an Audi car were used to lure pedestrians into the road, where they were hit by a Mazda.

The deaths came against a backdrop of clashes between the Asian and black communities, with gangs seen roaming around the streets looking for places to loot, whilst shopkeepers and members of the community tried to repel them by throwing objects at their cars.

CCTV footage showed three cars apparently lining up next to each other and following what the prosecution claimed was a deliberate hand signal, racing off. Beckford, 30, the driver of the Mazda, hit the crowd, but claimed in his evidence it wasn't deliberate and that he was a friend of the three men who died.

He said his car had been attacked and he was worried about being blocked in by the crowd.

Hours after the deaths, Mr Jahan's father, Tariq, who tended his dying son in the street, made an emotional appeal to groups of youths gathered outside his home in Winson Green.

His call for calm was credited with helping to bring an end to the riots and he later received an award for his compassion and dignity in the aftermath of his son's death.

Much of the case rested on telephone evidence between the men and CCTV footage which the Crown claimed showed an orchestrated three-car "chariot charge" planned in the minutes leading up to the fatal impact.

The prosecution claimed two cars were used to deliberately lure the crowd into the street, while the Mazda then drive into it.

But the defendants described the claims of a murderous plan being hatched in a three-minute "window" prior to the deaths as implausible speculation which had put innocent men in the dock.

The three men driving the cars - Ian Beckford, Adam King and Joshua Donald - and their passengers variously described the prosecution's claim as "ridiculous" and "utter rubbish".

It was also argued by the defence that the three cars were under attack from a crowd, some masked and armed with sticks, bricks and, in one case, a sword.

Paul Lewis QC, who defended Beckford, said the fatal collision happened when the three cars involved were "under serious attack" from groups of men throwing bricks and missiles from both sides of the road.

The QC told jurors: "It occurred as the three unfortunate victims themselves stepped further into the road to attack the cars. It was a tragedy but it was an accident nonetheless."

Goodwin, 21, Flynn, 26, Ruiz-Gaviria, 31, Donald, 27, Graham, 30, King, 24, Beckford, 30, and Parkins, aged 18, hugged and shook hands with each other in the dock as the verdicts were returned.