Youths in punch-up on council coach trip to Blackpool

A group of Asian and Muslim teenagers started a fight in Blackpool after being taken on a taxpayer-funded trip to the seaside resort to stop them causing trouble at an English Defence League march in the Black Country.

Youths in punch-up on council coach trip to Blackpool

A group of Asian and Muslim teenagers started a fight in Blackpool after being taken on a taxpayer-funded trip to the seaside resort to stop them causing trouble at an English Defence League march in the Black Country.

The five youths were driven to the Lancashire town's Pleasure Beach attraction by Sandwell Council amid fears they could become embroiled in the EDL event in Dudley.

But during their day-long excursion, they were involved in a fight which left father-of-two Derrick Brownhill unconscious and with bruising and swelling to his face and head, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.

The trip cost the public purse more than £2,113 and saw the group, who were aged 17 and 19 and from the Tipton and Oldbury areas, accompanied by a police officer and officials from the council.

Prosecutor Mr David Swinnerton told the court that the teenagers were part of a large group of Asian and Muslim youths that were taken to Blackpool by coach on July 17 last year.

He said: "The five defendants were part of a group of 19 Asian and Muslim males specifically taken to Blackpool by a police officer and five other officials from Sandwell Borough Council for the purpose of distracting them from anti-social behaviour on the day of the EDL march in Dudley."

At the time of the violence, two of the gang were on bail for a hammer attack in Tipton that took place three months before the Blackpool incident.

Three of the defendants were jailed for up to 21 months by Judge Amjad Nawaz yesterday, who told them: "There is nothing more disturbing than to have to sentence a dock full of young people just past their childhood years having engaged in offences of such severity that custodial sentences are inevitable."

Sandwell Council said today the trip to Blackpool had been organised with the support of police to help reduce tensions and deter teenagers who may have been at risk of getting involved in demonstrations in Dudley on the day.

The council said the £2,113.42 cost of the trip was met by government funding.

It said although it had no plans to do anything similar in the future, it would have to consider removing young people from situations in an attempt to prevent them from getting into trouble.

Councillor Derek Rowley, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for safer neighbourhoods, said: "Clearly, this was a very unfortunate incident which we totally condemn.

"We have a duty to foster good community relations and we will continue to work with local people and all our partner organisations towards that aim."

In total, 19 youngsters went on the trip. Eight were aged 16 or above and 11 were under 16.

In addition, there were five youth workers and one police officer, who went on a voluntary basis.

Derrick Campbell, a Government advisor on combating anti-social behaviour as well as Race Equality Sandwell chief executive, said today he knew about the trip and had supported it.

He said the men were sent to Blackpool because it was thought they could be aggressors as well as targets. During the EDL march in Dudley, a 16-year-old girl suffered a broken leg, six protestors were hit by a car and 21 people were arrested.

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