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Seven jailed after EDL violence in Walsall

It was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, but when the EDL held a rally in Walsall town centre fireworks and planks of wood were thrown, injuring police officers and protesters.


A string of yobs involved in the violence have been hauled before the courts and today another seven men were behind bars for their part in the trouble on September 29 last year.

Mark Baker, of Pleck; Stephen Bennett, of Palfrey; Kirk Reeves, of Swadlincote; Leslie Silk, of Bristol; Peter Kirkham, of Dudley; Craig Forward, of Tipton, and Myles Smith, of Leeds, were all jailed yesterday.

Forward, of Neptune Street, Tipton, was handed the longest prison sentence and was locked up for 25 months.

Mr Bennett said 38-year-old Forward had thrown a three-foot-long piece of wood towards police lines.

In mitigation, Mr Ben Nicholls said his client did not have a racist attitude and was of previous good character.

Speaking about Smith's part in the disorder, Mr Bennett said: "He kicked out at one police dog and punched another dog to the side of the head."

The court heard that Smith, aged 39, of Parkway Towers, Leeds, also had his face covered by a scarf at times.

He was jailed for two years.

Representing him, Ms Lindsey Lobley said he did not intend to be involved in any criminal conduct and accepted the incident was 'stupid' and 'senseless'. Mr Bennett told the court 44-year-old Baker, of Horseshoe Close, Pleck was described by police as being 'extremely worked up and angry'. "At one point, Baker surged forward towards the police line and tried to break through," said Mr Bennett.

Defending Baker, Mr Stephen Cadwaladr said his client did not use physical violence and did not chant 'hate language'.

Baker was jailed for 21 months.

Stephen Bennett, 23, of Milton Street, Palfrey, was described by police as 'standing on a bench throwing at least four objects into the police line'.

Defending Bennett, Mr Christopher O'Gorman said his client had no previous convictions and since the offence has returned to his former law-abiding ways.

He is now in employment and engaged to be married. Bennett was sentenced to 20 months in jail. Prosecutor Mr Bennett said Reeves, aged 40, of Colliery Road, Swadlincote became involved 'when he received a lump to the back of his head'. As a result, Reeves then 'punched and kicked against the police shields'. He is currently serving an 18-month jail term for burglary.

Defending Reeves, Mr David Munro said his client said he had been struck with a police baton.

He was jailed for 18 months to be completed after his current sentence.

Silk, meanwhile, of Gatcombe Road, Bristol, was seen chanting as others had to be pushed back by police, the court heard.

The 37-year-old claimed he was trying to protect a child that had fallen over. He has since ceased to be a member of the EDL, the court heard, and was jailed for 15 months. Kirkham, aged 30, of New Rowley Road, Dudley, had 'lunged' at an officer and grabbed his truncheon, Mr Bennett said.

In mitigation, Mr Jas Mann said he did not hold racist views and had attended the march because his mother was going but was now remorseful.

Sentencing him to 14 months, Judge Webb said there was no evidence he had thrown anything or used force.

The seven men had all previously pleaded guilty to violent disorder. Gareth Ballan, 28, of Silverdale Place, Newton Aycliffe, also appeared yesterday to be sentenced for the same charge. His case was adjourned to January 13 at Birmingham Crown Court after the court was told no pre-sentence report had been prepared. He was released on conditional bail.

The Walsall EDL demonstration is not alone in being marred by violence.

In July this year a police officer was hit on the head with bricks, and 20 people were arrested after scuffles broke out during protests in Birmingham.

Around 2,000 people descended on the city centre where two simultaneous demonstrations were held by English Defence League and anti-fascism groups.

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