No jail for drunken bus theft gang trio

A GANG of drunken youngsters stole a school bus and led police on a five-mile chase through North Tyneside and Northumberland, a court was told yesterday.

Google map: Bus chase

A GANG of drunken youngsters stole a school bus and led police on a five-mile chase through North Tyneside and Northumberland, a court was told yesterday.

The out-of-control coach was only stopped after police threw stinger devices in its path and it crashed into a car of armed officers.

Yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court three of the gang – one of whom was on an Anti-Social Behaviour Order – escaped jail.

But a fourth was sent to prison along with an accomplice for a separate incident in which they randomly attacked a young couple in Burradon, North Tyneside.

Robert Thompson, of Burradon Road, Burradon, Karl Amers, of The Spinney, Cramlington, and Louis Howe, from Allanville, Camperdown, all 19, and James Bennett, of Moor View, Camperdown, 20, had all previously admitted allowing themselves to be carried on the bus on October 6 last year.

Louis Howe

As none of them owned up to driving, they could only be sentenced on the basis they were passengers.

Prosecutor Euan Duff said all had been drunk before they took the double decker bus at Burradon Road in Annitsford, at about 8pm. Police spotted the out-of-control bus shortly afterwards on The Avenue in Seaton Delaval. The force helicopter and a convoy of squad cars then followed it through Seaton Sluice at speeds of no more than 20mph.

The bus drove through two stinger devices on Hartley Lane before crashing into an armed response vehicle, hitting a bollard and coming to a stop at the junction with the A192 near Earsdon.

The four occupants fled, but were quickly rounded up by police officers.

Yesterday Thompson, Amers, and Howe were each given 12-month community orders and told to do 250 hours’ unpaid work. Howe was placed under an electronic tag to be curfewed from 7pm-6am and both he and Thompson were ordered to pay £250 court costs.

Judge John Evans said: “You are young men who over the last few years have consumed far too much alcohol. You consume alcohol thinking you are big enough and old enough to hold your drink. None of you are capable of doing so. Your immaturity shows through in the behaviour you have exhibited. It is clear your are something of a nuisance to the communities in which you live.”

He added: “Because none of you had the guts to admit who was the driver I have to deal with you on the basis you were passengers, not that that makes your behaviour any more excusable.”

Bennett and Scott Guymer, 19, of Garth 24, Killingworth, were sentenced separately because of a drunken attack they carried out February 17 this year on a young couple as they walked through a subway to catch a bus in Burradon, North Tyneside.

After asking the couple for chips they beat the boy to the ground, then Guymer molested his girlfriend before the two left the scene laughing, Mr Duff told the court.

Guymer was jailed for 18 months for sexual assault on the girl, 17, and 12 months for causing actual bodily harm on the 16-year-old, to run concurrently.

Bennett was jailed for 12 months for the attack and three months for his role in the bus incident, to run concurrently. Both had admitted the offences.

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Click here to see a Google map of the route taken by the bus gang .

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Spared only because of their ages

JUDGE John Evans yesterday told three of the bus gang he had spared them jail only because of their young age.

But he warned if their drunken behaviour continued or if they breached their community orders he would sentence them to prison.

Robert Thompson appeared before the courts six times in 2005 and 2006 for being drunk and disorderly and damaging property.

Defending, Paul Cross said Thompson drinks too much but was in work and had a good side to his personality.

Louis Howe’s record began in 2003 and includes aggravated vehicle taking, dishonesty, and assault.

Peter Schofield, defending Howe, said he was earning £250 a week as a ground worker, providing for his partner and two-year-old son.

Karl Amers has received three police cautions.

Susan Hirst, defending, said Amers was trying to reduce his alcohol intake and use of cannabis.

The court was told James Bennett had two convictions in 2004 for being drunk and disorderly and battery, and another from 2005 for being drunk and disorderly.

Defending, Tom Moran said he could only hope Bennett had not already caused himself long-term damage through drinking.

Scott Guymer began offending at 10. His record includes theft and sexual assault. Judge Evans considered jailing him indefinitely because of the danger he poses to the public.

Peter Schofield, defending, said Guymer was now "clearly concerned about how he will be perceived in the community".


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