Derryck John: Sentencing delayed after teen now denies throwing acid in rampage across Hackney, Islington and Stratford
PUBLISHED: 18:21 09 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:35 12 March 2018
Sentencing of the teenager who admitted carrying out six acid attacks in 70 minutes has been delayed - because he has since denied being the one who threw the corrosive liquid at moped riders in a bid to steal their scooters.
Derryck John was 16 when he went on the rampage across Stratford, Islington and Hackney on July 13 riding pillion behind an “older man”, who he has refused to name and who is still at large.
Victims were sprayed through their helmet visors with an extremely noxious liquid - which is thought to be either acid with a pH of one or ammonia with a pH of 14 – leaving some of them with “life-changing injuries”.
The pair stole two mopeds and tried to take another four before John was arrested at 3am when he crashed the stolen moped he was driving into the back of a parked lorry in Dalston.
In January John, 17, of Thornton Heath, pleaded guilty to 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 at Wood Green Crown Court.
He changed his plea at the last minute when the CPS produced photos of him lifting off his helmet at the Texaco service station in Mare Street, where the pair stopped to buy £5 worth of petrol.
But today Judge Noel Lucas said it had become apparent there are “unresolved issues”, and adjourned sentencing until Monday.
“It seems from the pre-sentencing report that he doesn’t accept he threw the substance,” he said.
“Because I’m dealing with a young defendant and really serious offences, I must consider dangerousness, and I must proceed with great caution. I’m not prepared to rush it and get it wrong.”
Prosecutor for the CPS, Benjamin Temple, argued that John’s denial of having thrown the acid was a crucial point. It would affect the judge’s decision on John’s level of “dangerousness”, he said, which is a factor taken into consideration when sentencing.
John was riding pillion, and three witnesses claimed the pillion rider had squirted the noxious substance. Two others were unsure, while one victim believes the rider attacked him.
But defence barrister Amiot Vollenweilder argued it made no difference whether John had thrown the acid or not.
John had already admitted to him that he had engaged in joint enterprise, he said, and he was aware that “the driver was going to cause really serious harm” by throwing the acid.
“Once the court has decided there was an intention to do serious harm, if it’s joint enterprise does it really matter who did the squirting?” he asked.
Judge Lucas pointed out that the pre-sentencing report complied by the Youth Offending Team had concluded John poses a “risk of high harm to the public” – a risk factor which couldn’t get any higher, as well as a “high risk of recidivism”.
He warned the sentence would be “serious”, “bearing in mind his age”.
“If I look at the guidelines for assault, the starting point for one of these offences is likely to be 12 years and I’m dealing with six similar offences, each coupled with a robbery, so it has to be more,” he said. “I then discount the guilty plea, and his age to arrive at a just sentence.”
At the last hearting in January, John claimed in a statement he was “frightened” of his accomplice.
But he has now admitted that he was motivated by the “desire to impress his peer, rather than out of fear,” according to Mr Amiot.
“I’m conscious of the people it is said the defendant fell in with after leaving foster care,” he added.
“He’s clearly, on his own account, been bewitched by the crowd he’s fallen in with.
“They’ve given him things his family never could. They purchased things for him and got him involved with criminality.”
Reporting restrictions on naming the boy were lifted in January by judge Lucas, who said there was an “overwhelming public interest” in his identity and age.
One victim lost 30pc of his vision in the attacks according to the CPS, and others had to quit their jobs.
The rampage began in Penny Brookes Street, Stratford, when a moped rider was pursued at 9.30pm, who thankfully managed to lose the thugs.
At 10.25pm they threw acid in the face of a 32-year-old rider in Hackney Road and fled with his moped.
At 10.49pm the pair threw acid at a rider aged 44 in St Paul’s Road, Islington. Then at 11.05pm a 52-year-old man was targeted in Shoreditch High Street.
A man aged 24 was attacked in Cazenove Road in Stoke Newington at 11.18pm.
Less than 10 minutes later, at 11.25pm, John was clearly captured on CCTV at the Texaco garage when he lifts his helmet to pay for £5 of petrol.
Within another 10 minutes the pair struck again at 11.37pm, throwing acid in the face of a 33-year-man in Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton and stealing his moped.
But John crashed the stolen bike in Dalston at 3am, and was arrested soon after.
Ramesh Patel, of the CPS, said the victims’ injuries would have been a lot worse had they not been wearing their helmets.
“Derryck John claimed he was not involved in these attacks. CCTV from a petrol station was key to his identification and conviction.
“He was filmed stepping off a stolen Vespa scooter, lifting his motorcycle helmet and revealing his face.
“That evidence, alongside further material including CCTV of Derryck John wearing the same clothes and shoes during the attacks, led to his guilty pleas on the day of the trial.”