It happened at The Irish Centre, on Newcastle’s Stowell Street, when the right-wing extremists forced their way in. It turned out their targets, members of the Socialist Workers Party, were not even in the building when the English Defence League were spotted in a nearby pub and officials called the meeting off fearing trouble.
But that did not stop a pack of thugs, many wearing EDL hooded tops, from forcing entry, attacking door staff and setting off a fire extinguisher inside the Irish Centre in scenes captured on CCTV.
Northumbria Police released images of the suspects and, as a result of coverage in the Chronicle, nine of those caught on camera were arrested and charged.
As reported in Saturday’s Chronicle, six of the gang have been locked up after appearing at Newcastle Crown Court, while three others received suspended jail terms. However, police are still trying to find six people suspected of being involved in the fracas.
Today they renewed their appeal.
Det Sgt Rob Ridley led what has been a lengthy inquiry. He said: “We received a good response from the public when we released the images of the men we needed to speak to originally. There are still some outstanding people we need to speak with, and I’d urge anyone who recognises them to get in touch with us.”
He added: “I’m pleased these people have been sentenced for their part in this incident. They all stormed into the Irish Centre, scuffled with two people inside and then left. As a big crowd it was intimidating, and it has been a lengthy enquiry to identify those involved and get them to this stage.
“There’s no place for any kind of violent conduct, threatening or intimidating behaviour in Newcastle, and we’ll always do all we can to get those involved before the courts. I hope this sends out the message to others that we take this sort of offending extremely seriously and anyone involved can expect to be dealt with robustly by police.”
As previously reported, Peter Duffy, 44, of Elgin Avenue, Seaham; Colin Bell, 36, of St Oswalds Road, Hebburn; Anthony Burn, 48, of Lecondale Court, Leam Lane, Gateshead; Michael Garriock, 23, of Gibson Street, Wallsend; Barry Keddy, 34, of Deneholm, Wallsend; Alan Spence, 46, of Gerald Street, Benwell; Steven Spence, 27, of Wickham View, Denton Burn, Newcastle, and Paul Starr, 45, of Telford Street, East Howdon, North Tyneside, all admitted affray.
Nicholas Mills, 25, of Drumaldrace, Blackfell, Washington, and Colin Burton, 28, of Woodhave Court, South Shields, admitted public order offences.
Duffy was jailed for 10 months, Keddy got eight months, Garriock eight months, Steven Spence eight months, Alan Spence seven months and Burton seven months. Burn and Bell were sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with four-week curfews. Starr was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with a similar curfew. Mills’ case was adjourned until later this month.
Robert Adams, defending, said the EDL had targeted the meeting after it was advertised on the internet under the heading “smash the EDL”.
Judge Roger Thorn said he was not sentencing the men for their membership of any political party but for the premeditated violence.