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Wolverhampton Crown Court heard trouble flared between the 600 EDL supporters and 200 members of the United Against Racism movement

A judge has slammed “mob violence” as he jailed seven men who took part in an English Defence League demonstration in Walsall.

They were the first of 32 people appearing for sentence after violent disorder hit the town centre last September, leaving police officers and demonstrators injured.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard trouble flared between the 600 EDL supporters and 200 members of the United Against Racism movement, who were holding a counter demonstration.

Mr David Bennett, prosecuting, said police saw pages from the Koran being burnt along with a Pakistan flag while there were also abusive and racists chants from EDL supporters.

Placards were also being carried, with one reading “Our Walsall will not be part of Pakistan,” he said.

During the trouble a young Asian UAR member also made an ‘inflammatory gesture’ and EDL members surged towards police bidding to keep the protesters apart, the court was told.

The far-right group’s supporters pushed, punched and kicked out at officers who faced missiles including bricks, bottles, coins and wood broken from street furniture and tables in a nearby pub.

Judge Nicholas Webb said the violence lasted about an hour and it was fortunate no serious injuries were inflicted, with police largely protected by their riot shields.

All 32 men were charged after police scoured over 400 hours of CCTV footage of the trouble, which saw a small number of protesters and police officers sustaining minor cuts and bruises.

The seven men jailed all pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Craig Forward, 38, of Neptune Street, Tipton, received 25 months; Myles Smith, 39, of Parkway Towers, Seacroft, Leeds, received 24 months; Mark Baker, 44 of Horseshoe Close, Pleck, Walsall was sent to prison for 21 months; Stephen Bennett, 23, of Milton Street, Palfrey, Walsall got 20 months; Kirk Reeves, 40, of Colliery Road, Swadlincote, received 18 months; Leslie Silk, 37, of Gatcombe Road, Bristol, was jailed for 15 months; and 30-year-old Peter Kirkham, of New Rowley Road, Dudley was jailed for 14 months.

The judge was told none of the seven men were involved in fighting with police officers, but they were threatening and aggressive.

The other 25 men will be sentenced tomorrow and later this week.

Birmingham Mail

walsall

Trouble flared at the EDL rally in Leicester Street on September 29 last year, while Unite Against Fascism held a separate event elsewhere in the town centre.

Hundreds of EDL supporters had been in the town and some stewards, EDL supporters and police officers suffered injuries when violence erupted.

Seven men appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday and each pleaded guilty to a charge of violent disorder.

Mark Baker, aged 43, of Horseshoe Close, Pleck, Walsall; Benjamin Banfield, 34, of Meg Thatchers Green, Saint George, Bristol; Dean Lidster, 44, of Hatfield Road, Stratford; and Craig Forward, aged 37, of Neptune Street, Tipton, stood together in the jury box as they delivered their pleas in front of Judge Michael Challinor.

Christopher Jelley, 27, of Broadway Close, Shrewsbury; Myles Smith, 39, of Parkway Towers, Leeds, and Leslie Silk, 36, of Gatcombe Road, Bristol, also appeared in a separate hearing.

Apart from entering their guilty pleas, the defendants only spoke to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth during their appearances.

Their cases were adjourned for pre-sentence reports to be prepared.

Mr Stephen Cadwaladr, representing Baker, said his client had learning difficulties and was addicted to alcohol.

He said medical reports would also be prepared.

The defendants are each due to appear in front of a judge at Wolverhampton Crown Court in the coming months to be sentenced. They were all released on conditional bail.

The protest in the town centre caused shops and market stalls to close, and buses and taxis were suspended.

Police scoured CCTV footage and arrested a number of suspects thought to have been involved in the disorder.

Missiles including bricks and wooden panels were hurled at police, despite calls from the group’s leaders for calm.

Steel police cordons were set up in Bridge Street and Darwall Street, bringing parts of the town centre to a standstill.

The main bus station St Paul’s was also closed and buses were diverted, leaving some shoppers and visitors to the town stranded.

Chief Inspector Mike O’Hara said the trouble had been confined mostly to Leicester Street and the rest of the day had passed peacefully.

Express & Star