Meet the Redbridge mosque-trashers
The six white guys in the dock, accused of a violent attack on a mosque, seemed to have lost their swagger
They didn’t look that threatening. Six white guys sharply dressed in the dock, although you quickly got the impression that they didn’t always look like that. One, with sunken eyes, bristled in a black shirt and a stripy tie that were obviously bought for the occasion. The guy next to him looked even more discomforted. His tall shirt collar barely covered the faded tattoo on his neck. In the row behind, the only one who hadn’t been to the hairdressers for a severe crop leaned back and forth and chewed his nails.
What was missing, as they sat in the dock in east London, was the swagger. The sense that they were unbeatable, untouchable. It was there in March when they cut a swath down a suburban highway, smashing cars and producing the piece de resistance, the trashing of the mosque. No suits then. Eyewitnesses described the group in jeans and hoodies, hurling bricks and wielding planks of wood.
As witnesses described it allspoke, the youths sat within their Perspex box; silent, sullen and impassive.
I wrote about their handiwork in April, but the details of their visit bears repeating. One of them, a 16-year-old, “threw a brick, which smashed the front window”, the prosecutor said. Others also hurled missiles. As they did so, the youngest of them screamed “EDL”, the acronym for the English Defence League. Two people then ran inside, one of whom was identified from blood found at the scene as that 16-year-old. What greeted them? A handful of elderly worshippers, now terrified. They had been praying.
All of the alleged assailants were local men and the youngest seemed most aggressive. But there wasn’t much in it. The mosque was trashed and then a line of cars belonging to blameless members of their own community.
They denied violent disorder, but that largely belied the eyewitness accounts, not to mention the CCTV and after just 90 minutes, a jury returned convictions on four of them. Last week, Judge Timothy King handed down jail sentences totalling 12-and-a-half years. Difficult to conceive “a case of violent affray more serious than this one”, he said.
A community was affronted. A community meted out its punishment. An end to it. But not for the mosque, where the doors were always open. Life there won’t be the same again.