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HAREHILLS BONFIRE NIGHT: Three jailed over horror bonfire night in 2019

HAREHILLS BONFIRE NIGHT: Three jailed over horror bonfire night in 2019

Image: Google Maps

Three people involved in serious disorder on the streets of Harehills on Bonfire Night have been sentenced at court today.

The two men and a woman were convicted of violent disorder as part of Operation Daydon, a large-scale investigation launched by Leeds District CID into the incidents in the Harehills Road area on November 5, 2019.

Three other men, who were due to be sentenced today, failed to attend court and warrants have been issued for their arrest.

Six officers received injuries during the incidents, in which police were targeted with fireworks and other missiles. Two officers were treated at hospital but none were seriously injured.

Roads were barricaded, bins set alight, and damage was caused to police vehicles, buses and cars, street furniture and buildings.

Residents in the area reported feeling frightened by what took place throughout the evening and into the early hours of the next day.

Community mediators were forced to withdraw after being targeted during their attempts to engage with the groups, and officers needed to protect fire service colleagues as they extinguished burning barricades on main roads.

Teams of officers using public order tactics had to be deployed to clear the area and bring the situation under control, coming under sustained attack from missiles during that time.

A total of 15 people were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder on the night and a full post-incident investigation followed which saw detectives spend months trawling through hours of CCTV and body-worn camera footage to identify further suspects and mount arrest operations.

Charges of violent disorder were made against 13 people as a result of the investigation.

At Leeds Crown Court today, sentences were handed down to three of the six adult defendants who attended court.

Georgia Walker, aged 19, of Mexborough Grove, Chapeltown, was sentenced to 18 months custody.

Zohaib Ahmed, aged 19, of St Wilfrids Drive, Harehills, was jailed for two years.

Josh Smith, aged 22, of Sutherland Road, Harehills, received a 27-month sentence.

Four youths are due to be sentenced at Leeds Youth Court on March 1 having previously pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Another youth was previously sentenced to a Youth Rehabilitation Order with intensive supervision and surveillance, including curfew and electronic tagging.

One youth failed to appear at court and is wanted on warrant and enquiries are ongoing to locate and charge five further males who have been identified as suspects.

Three other youths, aged 12 to 14, who were arrested, were previously referred to the Youth Offending Team.

Leeds District Commander, Chief Superintendent Damien Miller, who oversaw the force-wide operation for Bonfire Night 2019, said: “That night we saw some truly appalling scenes played out on the streets of Harehills.

“Wanton damage was caused and fireworks and other missiles were repeatedly used as weapons against officers as they worked to bring this really challenging situation under control.

“People in the area were put in genuine fear for their safety during what was a significant and prolonged episode of disorder.

“We have been very clear that this situation was not as a result of tensions in the community or general animosity towards the police but was down to a hooligan element of local youths seeing an opportunity to engage in firework-related disorder on a large scale without any consideration for the impact of their actions on the wider community.

“Incidents such as this are completely unacceptable and will always attract a comprehensive response from the police, both on the night and going forward in our investigation to identify and bring to justice those responsible.

“We hope the convictions we have achieved will provide some reassurance to the community and also serve as a stark reminder to others of the penalties they will face if they involve themselves in criminal or anti-social behaviour of this kind.

“Harehills is a close-knit community where there is great deal of positive activity going on across a range of agencies and groups, particularly among its young people, and we cannot allow or tolerate incidents such as this which can overshadow all that good work.”

Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds, said: “The violent disorder that we saw in Harehills on Bonfire Night 2019, was mindless and completely unacceptable, and we very much welcome the sentences handed down by the court today to those involved. I would again like to thank all of the officers from West Yorkshire Police that were in attendance on the night for their outstanding professionalism in what were extremely difficult and trying circumstances.

“With our partners at West Yorkshire Police, we simply will not tolerate this type or indeed any form of anti-social behaviour in our communities. Anyone found to be taking part can be assured that as in this particular case, strong and appropriate action will be taken against them.”

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson added: “It’s important to see that the mindless actions of a minority have now been met with these justice outcomes.

“It should serve as a clear warning that such behaviour will never be accepted nor tolerated on our streets and there are consequences for those who cross that line.

“Our frontline officers and staff once again put themselves in potential danger to protect the local community and I am grateful that none were seriously injured over the course of that evening. However, we all know that could have been very different.

“It is just another example of their dedication, commitment and professionalism in what were extremely challenging circumstances.

“I continue to do all I can as part of the ongoing ‘Protect the Protectors’ campaign to ensure there are robust and appropriate outcomes for assaults on the police and all emergency service workers.

“I must also pay tribute to the community mediators and local residents who played their part in supporting the police and local authority, and also to the investigators who have meticulously developed the evidence to bring the perpetrators to account.”

Words: West Yorkshire Police

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