A group of “unrepentant”, smiling, baby-faced teens have appeared to be sentenced for “behaving like a bunch of gorillas” when they attacked a teenager with golf clubs, machetes and an axe.

Police were called to Hermitage Road, Rishton, near the old paper mill, at 9pm on August 6, 2021, after Thomas Hilton – who was 17 at the time – had been chased and attacked by a large group of youths.

Following a trial in April and May, a jury came back and found the eight teenagers, two of whom cannot be named for legal reasons, all guilty of violent disorder.

They are:

  • Danny Yakub, 18, of Blackburn Road, Great Harwood
  • Connor Armstrong, 19, of Christ Church Street, Accrington
  • James Meagre, 18, of Tinker Brook Close, Oswaldtwistle
  • Davis Hargreaves, 18, of Plantation Road, Accrington
  • Kane Taylor, 20, of Ripon Road, Accrington
  • Jay Slater, 18, of Fountains Way, Oswaldtwistle
  • Two boys, aged 16 and 17, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

On an additional charge of s18 wounding with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, the jury was unable to reach a verdict for Yakub, Armstrong and the 16- and 17-year-olds.

At a further hearing the prosecution said it did not intend to pursue a re-trial on these charges and offered no evidence, with Judge Philip Parry recording a not guilty verdict.

Yakub was also found guilty of one count of attempted witness intimidation and one the 16-year-old was found guilty on two counts of attempted witness intimidation.

After the defendants were arrested and charged, the 16-year-old obtained footage of police interviews featuring Mr Hilton and his younger sister, who was present at the time of the attack and who was the subject of the witness intimidation. He recorded these in his solicitor’s office.

He then circulated it on Snapchat, with offensive comments and emojis added in a bid to intimidate them. Those posts were shared by Yakub.

Sat in the dock to be sentenced on Thursday, August 3, some of the youths could be seen sniggering and laughing as prosecuting barrister Saul Brody detailed the case to the court, with Judge Parry being forced to halt proceedings to ask why the defendants were laughing, to which they could provide no suitable answer.

Opening the trial for the prosecution back in April, Saul Brody said: “At around 9pm on Friday August 6, then 17-year-old Tom Hilton went to the derelict building as he thought his sister was there and he was worried about her as he thought there would be people there who he had had problems with in the past.

“When he arrived, he asked someone to get his sister and two youths looked at him and laughed and then ran off before returning with a large group of males.

“He recognised one as Connor Armstrong and he was carrying a machete.

“Armstrong struck Tom Hilton across the shins with the machete and there were others there each of them carrying a weapon of one sort or other.

“There was an axe, a golf club, several knives and machetes.

Mr Brody said Tom Hilton recognised a number of the group, and all the defendants apart from Danny Yakub were present at that time.

Mr Brody told the court that Tom Hilton tried to run away and went into a wooded area and was chased by the group.

He said: “He described it as like being chased by gorillas. He was terrified and feared for his life.

“Every person in that group was intent on using violence and they were in it together to catch Tom Hilton and attack him which is what they went on to do.

“They intended to cause him really serious harm.”

Having got to the roadside, Mr Hilton was set upon by a number of the group who assaulted him with weapons and knocked him to the floor.

When a girl who knew his sister came to assist Mr Hilton and told the defendants to stop because they were going to kill him, the group were heard to say: “we are going to kill him” and “he’s dead boys”.

The victim suffered a large cut to his head which left his skull visible, puncture wounds to his shoulder blades and legs and was also stamped on, but his injuries were not life-threatening.

Mr Brody said that in their investigations, police recovered a number of the weapons, with crime scene investigators later recovering two more knives.

The youngest offenders were just 14 at the time the offence was committed.

Mitigation was heard on Thursday in respect of Yakub, Taylor, the 16- and 17-year-olds, Slater, and Hargreaves.

Armstrong’s and Meagre’s mitigation will be heard tomorrow (Friday) when Judge Parry will hand down his sentences.

In defence of Yakub, who has no previous convictions, Roger Brown said he did not play a major role in the violent disorder and had spent more than 80 days on remand and had made good progress.

Mitigating for Taylor, who has no previous convictions, Joe Boyd said: “They were teens who had nothing better to do.

“The circumstances are grim, and they congregated in the dark and derelict building and the consequences of that evening have been more than grim, they have been tragic.”

In defence of the 17-year-old, Paul Humphries said he had a diagnosis of ADHD, which his parents were concerned could have been autism. It was heard that the defendant had received a three month referral order for damaging property and had also been fined for driving without a licence.

Mitigating for the 16-year-old, Ellen Shaw asked Judge Parry to consider his immaturity, his addiction to drugs, and the physical and mental issues he has faced as a result of that addiction.

The boy also had a referral order to his name in respect of three dwelling burglaries, had received another referral order for malicious communication and had been made subject to a youth rehabilitation order for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

In defence of Jay Slater, Miss Shaw said he had no previous convictions and was someone who could go on to live a productive life with intervention from the probation service.

In respect of Davis Hargreaves, who was at the time of the violent disorder offence serving a three-year youth rehabilitation order for conspriacy to supply class A drugs, Isobel Thomas said Judge Parry should take into consideration his guilty plea in respect of the drugs, and the fact he had made progress since and played a relatively minor role in the violent disorder. 

During mitigation it was heard that the boys had all refused to accept the jury’s decision, and all are still extremely immature.

Judge Parry said: “I am not at all convinced that any of the defendants would abide by the conditions of a youth rehabilitation order even with intensive supervision and surveillance attached to it.

“None of them accept they have done anything wrong. They are unrepentant.

“I have to consider whether any of the defendants will be willing and able to comply with a non-custodial sentence and rehabilitation order, and nothing leads me, with any degree of confidence, to believe that they will comply with any order.”

Judge Parry will hear the final mitigations tomorrow and then deliver his sentence.