Derryck John, a 17-year-old from Croydon described as ‘despicable and cowardly’, has been jailed for 10 and a half years for attacking six people with acid while trying to steal their bikes.
John admitted carrying out the attacks in the north and east of London on 13 July last year, spraying moped riders in the face with a noxious liquid as he stole two mopeds and later tried to take another four. One of the victims was left with life-changing injuries.
John appeared at Wood Green Crown Court via video-link, having previously pleaded guilty to 12 offences including six counts of throwing a corrosive liquid with intent to disable, burn, maim, disfigure or cause grievous bodily harm, two counts of robbery and four counts of attempted robbery.
A despicable human being
During sentencing, Judge Lucas told John: “Your actions on the evening of 13 July 2017 were despicable and cowardly. You and your accomplice chose to attack members of the public who were going about their lawful business.”
“These were grave crimes. You attacked members of the public with what appears to have been an acid at the strongest end of the scale of acids. You have not revealed the name of your accomplice or the precise nature of the corrosive fluid used or where you and your accomplice obtained it.”
Reporting restrictions identifying the teenager were lifted by Judge Lucas, on the grounds of an “overwhelming, huge public interest” in doing so.
Five different victims, all male and riding mopeds, were attacked in a period of less than 90 minutes in July of last year. One was food delivery rider Jabed Hussain, who was on his way home when he had his moped stolen and his face sprayed with liquid at around 10.25pm at traffic lights on Hackney Road. Mr Hussain suffered facial burns and breathing problems after he was attacked by John, and had previously called for the 17-year-old to be given a life sentence.
Timeline of attacks
- 21:30 – Liquid is splashed in the face of a 69-year-old moped driver at the junction of Penny Brookes Street and De Coubertin Street in Stratford. The victim flees but is chased by John and his accomplice along several streets before he is able to get away
- 22:25 – A 32-year-old man suffers injuries to his face and has his moped stolen after he is attacked on Hackney Road in Haggerston
- 22:49 – Acid is sprayed in the face of a 44-year-old moped rider on St Paul’s Road in Islington. The attackers leave the scene empty handed
- 23:05 – A 52-year-old man is attacked on Shoreditch High Street. John and his accomplice fail to take his moped
- 23:18 – Police are called to Cazenove Road in Upper Clapton after a 24-year-old man has acid thrown on him, but again nothing is stolen
- 23:37 – A 33-year-old man is attacked and has his moped stolen as he waits in traffic on Chatsworth Road in Lower Clapton
John was caught after he rode his moped into the back of a truck and was forced to flee from the scene on foot. Police were quickly able to track him down thanks to help from a Police helicopter – video shown below.
DS James Leeks of the Hackney criminal investigations department said: “Derryck John did not think twice about using a life-changing and even potentially life-threatening substance against those who resisted his robbery attempts. Acid attacks ruin lives and have no place in our society. It beggars belief that anyone would be prepared to scar someone for life and leave them to live with life-changing injuries for the sake of a phone or a moped.”
“We are working hard to keep the public safe and make the streets hostile territory for criminals … We have a particular focus on the small number of criminals prepared to use corrosive substances to do so.”
The judge, who had previously overseen the Arthur Collins nightclub attack trial, said it was the second major corrosive fluid case he had dealt with in the past three months. “It is clear to me that the carrying and use of corrosive liquids is rapidly becoming a serious and growing problem in London and in particular, in this part of London,” he said.
Ramesh Patel, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “One of the victims has lost 30 per cent of his eyesight which he will never recover. Others described searing pain and burning at the time and have been forced to leave their jobs as a result of their injuries. Had they not been wearing helmets their injuries could have been much more serious,” he said.
A second person who was captured on CCTV carrying out the attacks with John has not yet been found. Scotland Yard said the moped driver was wearing dark clothing and a black helmet and appealed for anybody with information to contact them.
Punishments for this kind of crime need to be enough to discourage others from doing the same. 10 years simply isn’t enough, especially given that John will spend part of it in a young offenders institute and will automatically be released on licence after 5 years. The penalty should be the same as attempted murder and should not be less than 10 years of actual prison time. For criminals such as John who refused to identify the person who participated in the attacks with him, an automatic additional penalty of 50% should be applied.
Judge Lucas told John that had he been sentencing him as an adult and had he been convicted after a trial as opposed to having pleaded guilty, the sentence would have been 22 years’ imprisonment. I’m sorry but if you’re prepared to throw acid into people’s faces, your age shouldn’t make any difference whatsoever when you are sentenced. None at all.