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Eighteen jailed for riots which were 'criminal entertainment' says judge

One witness to the Mayhill riots in South Wales described the scene on Waun Wen Road as resembling a warzone

Eighteen people have been jailed for their role in the Mayhill riots in Swansea in 2021 which resulted in an independent inquiry that severely criticised the response of South Wales Police.

Violence and disorder erupted in the inner-city area of Mayhill in May 2021 following the death of a local teenager, with cars torched and homes vandalised while residents and police officers were intimidated and attacked.

Judge Paul Thomas said the riot initially involved cars being damaged, set on fire and rolled down the steep residential street in order to “whip up those present” and cause “significant alarm” to the residents.

The prosecution has previously detailed how some of the vehicles, including a black Vauxhall Astra and silver Ford Ka, were either bought or stolen specifically to be used in the ruckus and that organisers were using social media to encourage hoards of people to attend to “light up Mayhill”.

Members of the public were intimidated and attacked, including resident of the street Adam Romain who had his car torched and a brick thrown through his window while his wife and children were inside.

When police arrived on the scene they were met with aggression and pelted by missiles, including bottles, poles, bricks taken from garden walls and garden furniture, before having to retreat to safety.

Around £23,000 of damage was caused and six police officers were injured.

The disturbance began during a peaceful vigil for 19-year-old Ethan Powell on Waun Wen Road, and over two hours descended into a scene which one witness said resembled “a warzone”.

The family of Mr Powell, who was found to have died from an “unintentional drug overdose”, condemned the actions of the rioters.

An independent inquiry into the riot found “significant failings” in South Wales Police’s response to the riot, prompting the force to make a public apology after residents told the inquiry that they felt abandoned by the police.

The independent panel said there were failings of command decisions, tactics and communications.

It questioned why a request for support from Public Order Units from neighbouring forces under Mutual aid under “Operation Scorpion” was repeatedly refused.

On the night of the riot it was requested and declined twice. Because of this the senior officer at the scene in Mayhill sought to go outside of the chain of command because of its repeated refusal.

Sentencing those involved in the riots today Judge Thomas said:“The tragic death of a young man was shamelessly and cynically hijacked for the purposes of criminal mischief – not out of any respect for him or for his family.

“The riot that ensued was not borne of discontent or of social grievance but by a desire for mass entertainment.”

The judge commended the officers involved in investigating the riot.

A total of 27 people aged between 15 and 44 were charged with offences relating to the riot – an incident which made headlines around the UK.

Judge Thomas said the rioting was “the worst outbreak of mass violence” that had occurred in Swansea during his lifetime.

He said the sentences he had imposed would send a “clear message to reassure the residents of this city that such behaviour will not be tolerated”.

The 17 men and one woman were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court on Monday to a total of over 84 years in prison. All were told they would serve half in custody and the rest on licence.

Mitchell Meredith, 20, of Margaret Street, Port Tennant, who was called a “major rabble-rouser” was sentenced at the same time for domestic violence charges against his former girlfriend and given six years in prison and a five-year restraining order.

Judge Thomas said: “Those privileged to live in the city of Swansea consider it a generally safe, peaceful place to live and to raise a family.

“But in May of 2021, you all took part in the worst outbreak of mass violence that has occurred here in my lifetime and far beyond.

“One witness described the scene on Waun Wen Road as resembling a warzone. It was certainly an episode that has scarred the community deeply.

“Seven families either have left or want to leave the area – they have uprooted their lives because of the mayhem you collectively unleashed.”

A number of youth defendants will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Detective Inspector Gareth Jones who led the criminal investigation  said:“This was violence of an extreme nature and was a calculated defiance of the law and a deliberate attack on the police that attended.

“The numbers involved caused real fear to the local residents who witnessed the events or whose property was damaged during the course of the disorder.  

“Several factors have contributed to the success of this investigation and prosecution. Members of the public made witness statements and many more sent us mobile phone or door cam footage.

"The investigation that followed was thorough and meticulous and resulted in the evidence being presented in a way that compelled the court to convict these individuals.

“The sentences handed out to these individuals reflect the severity of what they did last May.  They joined together, armed with weapons, sticks and bricks and spared no thought for residents or the potentially fatal consequences that could have occurred. 

“I am pleased to say that justice has been served and I hope the sentences issued today will give those who were intent on being part of the disorder plenty of time to reflect on what they did.”

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