THREE young thugs who took part in a drunken seven-hour rooftop siege, throwing tiles, bricks and drain piping onto property and the street below, have all received custodial sentences of at least two years.
Jacob Johnson, Kieran Manning and Jordan Nicholson were told they could have put the lives at risk of passers-by and police as they randomly flung masonry and empty beers cans, while shouting abuse to those below.
Police sealed off the surrounding area of Railway Street in Bishop Auckland as they tried to talk the trio and up to three younger accomplices down from the rooftop, on February 18, this year.
At one stage a ladder placed against a window ledge to enable an officer to attempt to climb up to the roof was deliberately moved, slightly injuring a female constable on the ground.
Durham Crown Court heard it was only after the deployment of police helicopters, and with trained negotiators and the families of those involved present, trying to talk them down, that one by one they were finally brought from the roof and arrested, either side of 3pm that day.
Despite initial denials, with a trial date set in October, 19-year-old Nicholson, of Bell Street, Bishop Auckland, admitted a single count of affray last month, and at hearings over the last two days, Manning, 21, of Rockingham Street, Darlington, and 20-year-old Johnson, of Edward Street, Bishop Auckland, each also admitted the same charge.
Nicholson also admitted handling stolen car keys and dangerous driving, related to a house burglary and police car chase, also in Bishop Auckland, dating from April 5 last year.
Joe Hedworth, prosecuting, said the affray began shortly after 8am after the defendants began by causing significant damage internally in one property in Railway Street, before going up to the roof.
Mr Hedworth said they ran up and down the roof, throwing roof and ridge tiles, chimney bricks and drain piping, ripped from the wall, smashing a number of windows and shouting abusively at members of the public and police beneath.
Shocked and angry residents in properties affected were left to clear up and one faced a bill of up to £4,000 to repair the damage.
Although insurance companies eventually met the bill, two were left with excess payments of £100 and £200 respectively.
When arrested, Johnson said he had permission to be at one of the properties below for a couple of days.
He said he heard a banging at the door earlier that morning and others entered, but he claimed he had “trouble” with one of those present and was seen fighting with him on the roof, at one point.
Ismael Uddin, for Manning, said although at 21 he is the oldest of those before the court, he remains “immature”.
“I asked him why he did it and he said he was drunk and had no good reason for going on the roof.
“But he was with friends, very drunk, and he can’t remember everything as his drinking was out of control.
“He’s written a letter to the court expressing his remorse. It might have been different if he thought about it.”
Victoria Lamballe, for Johnson, said he believed he had not thrown anything, but after seeing all evidential footage accepts hurling a couple of tiles.
“He is shocked at his behaviour. This is plainly an appalling, unattractive, drink-fuelled incident and significant resources had to be deployed to bring it to an end.”
But she added that Johnson had tried to act as a peacemaker and attempted to persuade others to calm down during the stand-off.
Ian West, for Nicholson, said unlike his co-accused, he has no previous offences, apart from those matters before the court today.
He added that despite the risk, there was no injury caused other than the slight injury suffered by the officer holding the ladders.
Judge Ray Singh described it as, “appalling, anti-social, drink-fuelled, thuggish behaviour, with vandalism.”
The judge said: “There was the potential to cause very serious injury to any individual below these premises, including emergency workers and members of the public.
“If someone had been hit with a ridge tile thrown from those premises, think of the ramifications.
“For seven hours there was a stand-off when police resources could have been used for something more useful and all because you thought it was a good laugh to be out there on that roof, giving it large in drink.”
He imposed two-year sentences on Manning, in adult prison, and Johnson, in a young offenders’ institution.
Nicholson, who was also being sentenced for handling and dangerous driving, received a total 32-month sentence in a young offenders’ institution.
The court heard one younger accomplice received a six-month detention and training order at youth court, where another co-accused awaits trial over his alleged part in the incident.
No further action was taken against a female also arrested at the scene.