Sixth person found guilty of shooting at police during summer disorder

06/06/2012

A SIXTH person has been found guilty after shots were fired at police officers and the force helicopter in Newtown during last summer's disorder in Birmingham.

The jury at Birmingham Crown Court returned its verdict on Jermaine Lewis (27), from Oldbury on Wednesday (6 June). Lewis was found guilty of riot, reckless arson and possession of a firearm.

Four other men - Tyrone Laidley (20) from Nechells, Nicholas Francis (26) from Great Barr, Renardo Farrell (20) from Nechells and Wayne Collins (25) from Luton - were also found guilty of riot, possession of firearm and reckless arson last Friday (1 June) following a five week trial.

Reporting restrictions were lifted at court for Amirul Rahman aged 17 from Aston who was convicted of riot and possession of a firearm.

A 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were found not guilty on all counts.

The men are due to be sentenced today (7 June).

During the five week trial, Birmingham Crown Court heard how the men 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 local focal point in the community - 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 disorder and causing maximum effect and impact 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 11 shots 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.

The Birmingham Crown Court trial began on 23 April and lasted five weeks before the jury returned the guilty verdicts. The men are due to be sentenced at a later date.

Detective Inspector Andy Bannister, the lead investigator, spoke following the verdicts: "The defendants showed wanton disregard for life, they had already set fire to a pub with residents inside and discharged the firearms into a busy thoroughfare with police officers standing there.

"This is the largest number of firearms on the ground that I have been aware of and I would like to thank the local community for their support throughout the investigation."

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.

ACC Gareth Cann, in charge of force crime, said: "This could easily have been a murder inquiry if officers had been shot and on a particularly grand scale if the helicopter had been brought down. Thankfully officers were not injured however we cannot underestimate the impact this event has had on those involved.

"We would like to pay tribute to those operational support officers deployed on that night who were faced with these armed offenders as well as the crew in the force's helicopter who obtained vital footage for the investigation."

Neil Fielding, Special Casework Lawyer from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Complex Casework Unit said: "This prosecution has been enormously challenging, not least because of the sheer size of the case and the complexity of the evidence.

"The CPS and the police have worked tirelessly together to bring the offenders to justice within a very tight timescale, both to protect the community from the threat these people posed and to ensure continuing public confidence in the criminal justice system following the events of lawlessness last August.

"The verdicts today should send a strong and clear message to those who may consider acting in this way that the CPS will work with our partners to bring prosecutions to court."