‘Happy slapping’ youth dodges imprisonment

A Hampton youngster was told only his age had kept him out of prison when he appeared in court on a "happy slapping" charge.

The 14-year-old, who cannot be identified, appeared at Richmond youth court on Tuesday to be sentenced for actual bodily harm, which was recorded on a mobile phone, taking a moped without consent and driving it without a licence or insurance.

Magistrates told the youngster, who admitted taking the moped and was found guilty of the assault, if he was an adult he would almost certainly have been sent to prison.

Miss Morgan-Smith, prosecuting, told the court that last June the defendant assaulted another 14-year-old in Crane Park in Twickenham.

The court heard the victim was playing basketball with friends when the assailant approached with a group of youths. He was punched in the left side of his face and when he tried to escape was followed, punched to the ground and kicked in the head and body.

Miss Morgan-Smith said the victim was curled up in the foetal position to protect himself but managed to get up and flee with his two friends. She told the court the victim noticed the defendant watching a mobile phone and laughing during the attack, and finding him guilty Magistrates said it was a "happy slapping" attack.

"If you were an adult you would almost certainly be going to prison."

Chair of magistrates' bench

The court heard the victim's parents took a picture of the assailant and the youth was recognised. But he denied taking part in anything, and offered to be in an identity parade.

However, he failed to attend and was identified using photographs.

Since the incident the victim has been wary of large groups of males and will cross the road or turn around if he sees a big group and has not returned to the scene of the assault. He has also had counselling, the court heard.

The court also heard that on February 3 the defendant was stopped by police when riding his step-father's moped without consent and admitted he was driving it without a licence to get cigarettes.

Mr Nicholson, speaking in mitigation, said the defendant denied being responsible for the attack, despite being found guilty, but knew he was stupid to ride the moped.

He added the defendant has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and takes Ritalin for it, but not at weekends, and the moped driving took place on a Saturday, and he also suffers from anger outbursts.

Mr Nicholson said the defendant made a mistake riding the bike and has been punished by his mother and step-father, who he regards as his father.

The defendant is preparing to take nine GCSEs and his headteacher said he is a diligent worker.

The chairman of the bench told the defendant he was lucky not to have caused more serious injuries to his victim and described the attack as thuggish. She added that he was reckless and irresponsible for driving the moped.

"If you were an adult you would almost certainly be going to prison," she added.

The 14-year-old was given a supervision order for 18 months, and one for 12 months for taking the moped. They are to run concurrently.

He was also given six penalty points on his licence and told to pay £125 in compensation to his victim.

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