Millionaire's daughter Laura Johnson jailed for two years after being caught up by 'thrill' of London riots
PUBLISHED May 26, 2012
Laura Johnson, 20, a former grammar school prefect, acted as a chauffeur for a drug-dealing robber and his friends as they pillaged electrical goods during an eight-hour crime spree.
The university student left behind her privileged background and embraced the new world of cannabis, alcohol and violent gangster rap music, willingly partaking in the rampage.
Her actions added to the "overall lawlessness" that threatened to overwhelm the forces of law and order, the court heard.
After a two-week trial,Johnson was found guilty of burglary and handling stolen goods.
Yesterday Judge Patricia Lees sentenced her foir a total of two years for both counts after she said Johnson was caught up "through immaturity and ill judgement" what she thought was an "exciting experience".
"You were pivotal to this planned criminal enterprise," she said.
"You provided and drove the car which carried the others both to and from premises which they burgled and outside of which they robbed others of goods stolen only moments before.
"Your actions added to the overall lawlessness that threatened to overwhelm the forces of law and order."
She said Johnson, who was described as being on a path of "self destruction", was excited by what she "perceived to be the thrill" of the world of Emmanuel Okubote, a convicted crack dealer who the court heard led the looting spree.
Dressed in a blue blouse and black cardigan, Johnson smiled nervously as she was ordered to be "sent down".
She is expected serve half of her sentence and likely to be out in seven months as she has already spent 144 days on tagged curfew.
Her parents Robert, 56, and Lindsay, 55, refused to comment but earlier said they would consider an appeal.
Throughout the trial, Johnson claimed she had been terrified into driving convicted robber and "bad boy" Emmanuel Okubote, 20, and his friends, with talk of guns and knives.
She said she had been virtually kidnapped by Okubote who she met through a friend and was acting entirely out of duress because the men were "not the sort of people you say no to".
She also blamed her descent into lawlessness on being raped by two men in the weeks leading up to the riots - an allegation which went unreported to the police - and on having a complete mental breakdown after being dumped by her previous boyfriend.
But the jury agreed that Johnson, then 19 and on holiday from university, had been acting of her own free will as she joined hundreds of looters who "scurried like wild rats".
The Exeter University student, who lives in her parents' £1million country house in Orpington, Kent, had become infatuated with Okubote.
So desperate was she to please him that she drove him and two other balaclava-clad passengers as they looted branches of Currys and Comet in South-East London.
When she was arrested, Johnson revved the engine at police officers who said they "feared for their lives".
Inside her car they found a haul of cigarettes, alcohol and televisions and a "quantity" of condoms in Johnson's purse.
Martin McCarthy, defending, said: "This is completely out of character. This young lady was acting in a self destructive fashion.
"She is a young girl who has lived a privileged life with a caring family and that will be ripped away from her.
"On any analysis this is a tragedy for her and a tragedy for her family without devaluing the impact of her actions on the wider public.
"Her future has been put in real jeopardy. Her studies will not resume after a custodial sentence and her family will not recover from what to them has been a personal tragedy."
Okubote, who the court heard fled the scene before he could be caught, has since been arrested by police and is currently under investigation.
A second man in the car Christopher Edwards, 17, a student from Catford, south London, was sentenced alongside Johnson to 12 months in a detention centre.
A third passenger, Alex Elliott-Joahill, 18, who pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and handling stolen goods, will be sentenced at a later date.