Two young men from Tunbridge Wells have avoided prison after being part of a 150-strong crowd that subjected two police officers to a barrage of glass bottles, beer cans, abuse and violence in Sevenoaks.
Jamie Heslop, 21, of Montgomery Road, and Joshua Carey, 22, of Good Stations Road, were heard to whoop as they left court yesterday (Thursday, August 31).
They were also greeted with cheers from family and friends on the steps outside the building and Heslop was seen grinning and shaking hands.
But just minutes earlier a judge had told the pair, who admitted affray, that if they had any ‘self-respect or dignity’ they would be ashamed of themselves.
The court heard two uniformed constables were met with a ‘mob mentality’ after being called to reports of anti-social behaviour among youths gathering in the town at about 8.20pm on April 30 last year and began to confiscate alcohol from under-age drinkers.
Even warnings of Pava spray being deployed did nothing to quell the abuse from the crowd, including girls, who dared the officers to use it by shouting ‘F***ing spray us, you Fed c**ts.”
Prosecutor Don Ramble said: “What began as a social event became increasingly abusive and aggressive.”
PC James Hales and his colleague PC Edward Moore were surrounded at The Vine cricket ground, one of England’s oldest cricket venues and dating back to 1773, as they tried to arrest Heslop after he swung his arm at PC Hales, hitting him in his chest.
Concerned as the number of youths appeared to double from 75 to 150 within minutes, they had already put out a ‘Mayday’ call for assistance on their radios.
But Maidstone Crown Court was told that due to it being shift change-over time they were left to deal with the mob alone for at least 30 minutes with just one community support officer able to arrive offering assistance.
The emergency button had also failed on one of their radios, and PC Hales admitted he felt scared as the disorder degenerated into what he described as ‘carnage’.
He and PC Moore were on their knees having pinned a struggling Heslop, then aged 19, to the ground when the aggressive mob gathered around them.
As they screamed abuse and tried to free Heslop, both PCs pulled out their Pava sprays, only to be met by taunts and swearing.
The court heard both deployed their entire cannisters after PC Hales felt a blow to the back of his head and right ear.
The officers then fled with Heslop through a gate and onto the road outside.
However, a smaller group of youths followed them and continued to throw bottles and cans.
The two officers retreated further down the street, still trying to restrain Heslop, until police reinforcements finally arrived.
The court heard PC Moore suffered a minor injury to his shin in the struggle with Heslop. The PCSO who also attended suffered a cut to his head when he was hit by a bottle but neither Heslop nor Carey were to blame.
Heslop, who continued to resist arrest until he was placed in a police van, later claimed he was trying to protect his younger brother from being attacked by another youth when he swung an arm out and pushed the officer in the chest.
The court heard Carey, then aged 20, was not involved in any violence but was sprayed by the officers and became verbally abusive as he tried to free Heslop, whom he described as ‘one of his boys’.
“I got p***ed off and I was up for a scrap with anyone,” he later admitted, adding he did not like being called an idiot by officers.
Part-time groundsman and fencer Heslop and dustman Carey pleaded guilty to affray on the day their trial was due to start earlier this week.
But while both were told they had been involved in an ‘ugly and serious’ incident, Judge Jeremy Carey said he was ‘just’ prepared to impose suspended sentences.
Public’s ‘contradictory’ attitudes to the police
However, in his sentencing remarks he strongly criticised the public’s ‘contradictory’ attitudes to the police in general.
“When there is a domestic incident, who gets called – the police. When there is a murder, a killing or a severe incident in a nightclub or outside it, who gets called – the police,” he said.
“Who has to deal with the mess, the emotional trauma and all the unpredictable nature of street-running violence – the police. And who gets the credit – not the police.
“Who gets the blame so often – the police. Who gets the abuse and disrespect of the public, so often with vile descriptions – the police.
“So it is that judges will reflect the fact that police officers doing their duty deserve protection and those who interfere with them doing their duty deserve to be punished.”
Heslop was sentenced to five months’ jail suspended for 15 months, ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, and be on a tagged three-month curfew from 8.30pm to 5.30am.
‘Like a lout’
Carey, who the judge said behaved ‘like a lout’, was sentenced to four months’ jail suspended for 15 months, ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, and be on a tagged two-month curfew from 8pm to 5.30am.
Both must pay £500 towards court costs.
A third youth, Oliver Cheary, of Langton Road, Langton Green, had been accused of punching PC Hales and throwing a bottle.
But it took a jury just 10 minutes to clear the 18-year-old former Tunbridge Wells Grammar School pupil of affray.
During his trial PC Hales told the court he and PC Moore had arrived at the cricket ground in a marked patrol car and hoped their presence would be enough to disperse the crowd, gathering within yards of a private function in the clubhouse itself.
But he said they were immediately met with ‘anti-police sentiment and mob mentality’, as people launched bottle and beer can missiles in their direction.
“I assumed there were about 150 people. More were arriving by the minute. When we went to the floor they surrounded us and were in touching distance,” PC Hales told the court.
“I had people pulling me off the prisoner and bottles being thrown all around us. I was calling up for more units because I feared what did happen was going to happen.”
Barry Gilbert, defending said Heslop accepted he behaved inappropriately when he tried to help his brother but had not attacked police. “This was an incident that got out of hand. If it wasn’t for this he would be a decent, orderly, young man,” he added.
Kieran Brand, defending Carey, said his role was limited to involvement in the arrest of Heslop, and then becoming abusive after his own arrest. He described him as now living ‘a settled and quiet’ life.