Lengthy sentences handed to two men for riots shooting


Lenghty sentences have this afternoon been handed out to two men following their part in last year’s disorder in Birmingham where shots were fired at police officers and the force helicopter.

Beniha Laing (29) was sentenced to 35 years and Wesley Gray (27) sentenced to 29 years after they were found guilty of riot, possession of firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of firearms.

Two women were also sentenced following their links to the firearms used on the night of 9 August 2011. Nadeen Banbury (25) was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence and Janine Francis (25) sentenced to five years for possession of a weapon and ammunition.

Over the last few weeks, Birmingham Crown Court heard how the men, who were part of a larger group of people and have been linked to a criminal gang, planned and orchestrated an attack on police on the ground as well as the force's helicopter at the height of the disorder in the city when they knew that police resources were stretched.

Officers were lured to The Bartons Arms pub on the night of Tuesday (9 August 2011) - a place of local historical interest - at the same time that other areas of Birmingham and the West Midlands were experiencing pockets of disorder.

The pub was broken into, ransacked and spirits and petrol were used to set fire to the building. The furniture from the pub was then used to barricade the main High Street. The group, all wearing black clothing and masks, were intent on causing serious disorder and impacting on local people and emergency services.

Local CCTV showed the group also attempting to break into nearby entertainment venue 'The Drum'. The footage shows them hammering through glass in an attempt to obtain more furniture to block the roads.

A police unit, of unarmed officers trained to deal with disorder, arrived and attempted to disperse the crowd. The officers were confronted by the group who threw missiles and goaded the officers. Some of the group then discharged at least 12 shots, using a number of different firearms in the direction of the officers.

The force's helicopter was deployed to film the disorder and help officers on the ground, the subsequent footage showed the group as it moved across Aston. On two occasions individuals within the group appeared to take aim and shoot at the helicopter.

The incident ended when firearms officers attended the scene and a number of arrests took place.

Six men were found guilty and given sentences ranging from 12 to 30 years in June this year.

On 7 October last year, a Fegarmy 9mm pistol and ammunition was found at the address of Laing's friend Janine Francis following a planned police operation. The firearm was examined revealing that it was one of the weapons used on the evening of 9 August and also Gray's DNA was found on the gun.

A second firearm was seized on 19 October when Laing was handed a bag by Nadeen Banbury near to Burlington Street. The bag contained a St Etienne revolver and ammunition which was also identified as one of the other weapons used that August night.

Detective Inspector Andy Bannister, the lead investigator, spoke following the verdicts: "On the night of 9 August, approximately 40 people were on the streets near the Bartons Arms pub in Aston. They had planned an orchestrated attack on police officers who were deployed on the night.

"A number of individuals are already serving lengthy sentences following a trial earlier this year regarding this investigation and today we have secured further convictions against other people involved.

"Despite the culmination of this trial, the work does not stop here. We are continuing to look at using different methods of intervention to address the behaviour of other individuals who were part of that group on that August night."

The dedicated investigation team of 20 officers examined over 300 hours of footage, spoke to numerous members of the community and gathered intelligence to bring the case to trial.

Neil Fielding, special casework lawyer from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service Complex Casework Unit, said: "These individuals are dangerous men  - supported in their criminality by the two women convicted today - who used last year's disorder as an opportunity to put the public and the emergency services at risk. They deliberately targeted unarmed police officers putting their lives in grave danger in a calculated and cowardly manner.

"The conclusion of this case demonstrates that the partners working together within the criminal justice system will do everything in their power to bring dangerous offenders such as these to justice."