Outrage as teenage thugs who tortured a girl of 12 and recorded it on mobile phones escape jail

Last updated at 15:00 24 January 2008

A furious family hit out today after a yob gang who tortured a 12-year-old girl were set free - because magistrates claimed they were powerless to cage them.

The court had wanted to lock up the thugs after hearing how they laughed as they kicked their victim, set off fireworks near her legs and ripped off her underwear during an hour long ordeal - even recording it on mobile phones.

But the five youngsters aged between 11 and 15 who pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm escaped jail because the JPs said they were bound by guidelines issued by politicans over the sentencing of juveniles.

Instead the gang, which included two girls, were given supervision or referral orders which means they will be monitored by the probation service and youth workers. The yobs will each have to pay the girl £150 compensation.

One of the yobs, who was just 11-years-old, had previous convictions for robbery and racially aggravated public order matters.

The victim's family last night said it was "disgusting" that the thugs did not get custodial sentences.

Her mother said: "Nothing can compensate my daughter for what they did to her."

The girl's grandmother added: "They are evil for what they put her through. She won't go to school or go on a school trip in case she sees them.

"She is very timid and inward now and she doesn't say much.

"Her face was such a mess when she came home. They don't care.

"They're not bothered now, they are laughing their heads off because they have got away with it."

Earlier Joanna White, prosecuting, told Bolton magistrates how the five-strong gang called for their victim and asked if she wanted to play out at around 5.30pm on October 20, last year.

The gang was made up of three boys, two aged 11 and one aged 14, and two girls, aged 13 and 15. The group went to a nearby field off Freshfield Avenue in Great Lever.

But when they arrived, the gang turned on the 12-year-old, claiming she had been "calling" one of the girls in the group names.

The youngsters - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - then launched their sustained and vicious attack, the court was told.

Fireworks were set off near her legs and, at one point, two of the boys ripped off her underwear as she pleaded with them to let her go home.

One of the boys then took a running kick at her as she lay on the floor.

Miss White said: "Part of the incident was recorded on a mobile telephone which shows the severity, prolonged nature and viciousness of the attack that took place on this poor young girl for absolutely no reason."

The pictures from the mobile phone showed members of the group laughing and swearing as they carried out the attack.

The youngsters were arrested soon afterwards and initially tried to blame each other.

But they were charged and pleaded guilty to assault.

One of the 11-year-old attackers said a girl member of the gang had fallen out with the victim, prompting them to start punching and "booting" her in the face.

Miss White said it was pure luck that the victim did not suffer lasting physical injury. She added that the girl may never get over the psychological trauma.

Anthony Shimmin, defending one of the 11-year-old boys, said of the attack: "It went on and on and on. She was tortured, for want of a better expressions."

Passng sentence the Chairman of the bench, Dr Gordon Laws, said the magistrates were bound in terms of sentencing by Acts of Parliament.

He told the youngsters: "This is a very serious offence. A group action over a long period of time and you are all equally responsible, irrespective of how many times you punched or kicked.

"One of the more reprehensible things about this case was that somebody was videoing it for you to all look at, and laugh at, afterwards.

"If we could have sent you into custody today, we would have done."

One of the 11-year-old boys was sentenced to a 24-month supervision order and a three-month curfew, requiring him to be at home between 7pm and 7am.

The court heard that, despite his age, he had previous convictions for robbery, assault and racially aggravated public order.

The other four defendants were given 12-month referral orders. All were ordered to pay the victim £150 each in compensation.

The referral orders mean they will be monitored by the probation service and youth workers.