Judge hails 'brave' mother as student rioter locked up

A JUDGE praised the mother of a sixth-former who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from a roof during an anti-fees riot as he locked up the teenager for over two years.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC told Edward Woollard, 18, he was taking into account his mother's "extraordinary and courageous conduct" in persuading him to give himself up.

But sentencing him to two years and eight months in a young offenders' institution, the judge said the public had a right to protection from violence.

Woollard, of Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire, joined protesters who stormed the Millbank complex in London that houses Tory Party headquarters on November 10.

His mother Tania Garwood encouraged him to give himself up to police after he was pictured by media organisations during the rioting.

The judge told the teenager, who threw the metal fire extinguisher from a seventh-floor rooftop as hundreds of people gathered below, that he would serve at least half his sentence for violent disorder.

The judge said: "It is deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing, for a court to have to sentence a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody.

"But the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can and this means sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way that an offence of this seriousness will not be tolerated.

"The right of peaceful protest is a precious one. Those who abuse it and use the occasion to indulge in serious violence must expect a lengthy sentence of immediate custody."

The judge added: "Nevertheless I shall take into account in your favour the extraordinary and courageous conduct of your mother, which resulted in you giving yourself up to the police so quickly."

The judge also said he took into account the defendant's age, his guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and the fact that he had no previous convictions.

Woollard's mother, who was joined in the packed court room at Southwark Crown Court by friends and relatives, broke down in tears as her son was sentenced.

The judge told him: "It is perhaps ironic that the weapon which you threw down from the top of this very high building and which was calculated to inflame passions was a fire extinguisher.

"I have seen the DVD recording of this crime. There was a

large crowd of people on the ground beneath. The televised recording of the incident shows that this heavy fire extinguisher fell terrifyingly close to a group of police officers – just a few feet away.

"It is my judgment, exceedingly fortunate that your action did not result in death or very serious injury either to a police officer or a fellow protester."

The student, dressed in a dark suit, sat with his head bowed at times as his sentence was handed down.

He was told the maximum sentence he could have received was one of five years but the judge said this was reduced owing to his guilty plea.

His mother declined to comment afterwards but said earlier that he deserved to be punished.

Ms Garwood, 37, said she feared the incident had ruined his life, telling The Times yesterday: "I brought up my children to take responsibility for their actions and he has. I believe he deserves to be punished. I just hope it is the right punishment.

"He is a loving, caring, gentle man. He has got a lot to give, he has got a lot to learn. I hope he has got the chance to continue his education and it hasn't ruined his life."

Woollard was studying A-levels at Brockenhurst College at the time of the offence. He was one of hundreds of students who split away from a huge protest and gathered outside Tory party headquarters. Dozens of people smashed their way inside the complex, breaking furniture and windows, while others chanted and lit fires outside. During a four-hour stand-off, several dozen protesters gathered on the roof, discharging fire extinguishers on to the crowd below.

Woollard was arrested five days later when he gave himself up to police after footage of the incident was shown on television.