Practice and Procedure

R v PARVAIS NAJEEB & 14 ORS (2003)

PUBLISHED January 30, 2003

The sentences passed in all but three of the cases of defendants who were found to have taken part in the Bradford riot in 2001 were not manifestly excessive and represented the level of participation, and length of time the defendants were involved in the riot.Appeal by four defendants against sentence with leave of single judges. Renewed applications for leave to appeal by eleven defendants. At various dates in 2002 at Bradford Crown Court 14 defendants pleaded guilty to riot. Twelve defendants were sentenced by HH Judge Gullick, one by HH Judge Scott and another by HH Judge Bartfield, as follows: (i) six defendants received four years' imprisonment; (ii) one received four and a half years' imprisonment; (iii) four received four years nine months imprisonment; (iv) two received five years' imprisonment; and (v) one received six years' imprisonment. One defendant pleaded guilty to violent disorder at Bradford Magistrate's Court and was committed to Bradford Crown Court before HH Judge Bartfield for sentence, he received two years nine months imprisonment. The defendants had all taken part, in varying degrees, in the Bradford riots, which had occurred on 7 July 2001. On 7 July anti-nazi supporters gathered in response to an assembly of the National Front Party, which had been banned by police. Small groups of National Front members gathered and handed out leaflets. A number of minor scuffles broke out and a considerable number of Asian youths gathered. By 2.30pm the City centre was awash with groups and serious disorder ensued between white and Asian youths. Groups of Asian youths threw missiles at property and at police officers. An Asian youth was seriously stabbed by a white youth. Another was stabbed in the leg. Reports were made to the police that Asians were running amok in the city centre carrying an array of sticks and baseball bats. The police decided to drive the increasing number of youths out of the city centre to prevent further damage. At 6.30pm a group largely dominated by Asians were pushed back. The police came under heavy barrage from a number of missiles, petrol bombs and stones. The mob retreated but built a barricade using stolen cars, which were set alight. Stolen cars were driven at the police. Many police were injured and help from other forces was called for. Four hundred police officers attended from other forces. Other premises were attacked, petrol bombed and looted. By 5.00am the riot was coming to an end. In total over 300 police officers were injured and the estimated damage to property and ruined business' was in the region of ?27 million. One defendant was arrested at the time and the others surrendered to police at different times following pictures being published in the media of those involved. The defendants had all been involved to different degrees. The defendants appealed, or sought leave to appeal sentences on the grounds that whilst there was serious disorder, which deserved a custodial sentence, the general level imposed was manifestly excessive: (a) having regard to the level suggested in R v Keyes 8 Cr App R (S) 444 and R v Pilgrim 5 Cr App R (S) 540; (b) sentences of four years on those least involved, bearing in mind they gave themselves up, showed remorse and leaded guilty meant a one third discount must have been given, indicated that the starting point was six years which was too high; (c) the starting point for sentencing should have been two years for doing nothing, with three years for throwing missiles the sentences imposed should have ranged from 18 months to three years not four years and upwards; and (d) it had been wrong for HH Judge Gullick to state when sentencing that he was not concerned with the origins of the prolonged violence given the fear of the Asian community of racist attacks by right-wing extremists.HELD: (1) The task of the sentencing judge was difficult given the large number of defendants, large amount of video and other evidence and dealing with the cases over a number of months. Great weight had to be attached to the local knowledge of the sentencing judges. (2) The authorities should be approached with caution. Whilst in R v Keyes (supra) some guidance was given it was not a sentencing guideline case. (3) The riot was of utmost gravity lasting over 12 hours. It could be accepted that the riot was not premeditated and was as a result of growing anxiety in the community arising over the presence of white racists. However, the anger was directed at the police who were seeking to prevent conflict by moving the Asians to another area. There were clear signs of organisation within the rioters and what was spontaneous became premeditated. (4) Enormous credit had to be given to senior members of the Asian community who tried to keep the peace, however, it was the young members who were before the court. (5) In relation to these cases and only these cases, any ringleader caught should have got very near the statutory maximum of 10 years. (6) An active and persistent participator, present for a significant period, throwing petrol bombs, burning cars etc should have received between 8 and 9 years following trial. (7) A defendant present for a significant period and throwing missiles less dangerous than petrol bombs but more serious than stones should have received between 6 and 7 years following trial. (8) A defendant present for a significant period and throwing bricks or stones should have received 5 years following trial. (9) Rioting of a lesser level deserved lower level sentence. Discount should have been given in the normal way for a guilty plea. (10) It could not be accepted that the sentencing judges had had a starting point of six years in mind for those least involved. Whilst a discount of a third was generally given on a plea that discount could be higher or lower, given the fact that video evidence clearly identified all the defendants little credit could be given for pleading guilty. It seemed likely that the starting point had been five years. (11) The sentence of four years for Najeeb was manifestly excessive given his part in the riot and would be quashed with three years substituted. (12) In the case of Qazi the sentencing judge stated that but for his mental condition he would have imposed a sentence of five and a half years, he accordingly reduced the sentence to four years. The judge had made an insufficient reduction to take into account the defendant's mental condition. The sentence would be quashed and two years substituted. (13) In the case of Maskin a sentence of two years nine months for violent disorder was excessive having regard to the small role he played in the riot. His application for leave would be granted, the appeal allowed and a sentence of two years substituted. (13) The rest of the appeals and applications would be refused. The sentences passed correctly reflected each defendant's level of participation.Judgments accordingly.