Three teenagers including a 13-year-old girl have been jailed in Wales for causing the death of a motorist by their unruly behaviour in July last year. In fact it was a kind of stoning to death with a difference. The three were throwing stones and bricks at traffic on a busy road "for a laugh", a court heard. Caught in the chaos, John Wells, 29, swerved into an oncoming car. And that was the end of the man.
Judge John Curran of Merthyr Crown Court sentenced them all to jail, to varying periods. He noted stone throwing on the road was a "popular pastime among youngsters in the area despite warnings from police about the potential consequences.
Luke Cotter, now 16, a persistent offender with a string of previous convictions including criminal damage and making a hoax 999 call, was sentenced to four years' detention. His half-brother Alan Type, a year younger, was sentenced to three years, and the girl two years.
"I begin by making it clear there is nothing I can do or say, no sentence that can be passed that could put right the permanent feelings of grief, devastation and loss occasioned to the family of Mr John Wells who was entirely blameless and needlessly lost his life," the judge said.
He said the Heads of the Valleys A465 between Merthyr Tydfil and Dowlais, where the incident happened, presented enough dangers to motorists without their being targeted by stones.
Addressing Cotter and Type, he said: "You were throwing missiles, ranging in size up to half a house brick.
"It's clear from the evidence of individual motorists what you were doing was throwing them at windscreens ranging in size from heavy goods vehicles down to private motor cars, some of which contained families and in one case a small baby."
He felt that while the girl did not admit to actually throwing a stone, he considered it a joint enterprise.
The judge added: "While the prosecution take the view, in law, these defendants could not be held responsible directly for the death of Mr Wells, the fact is, as a result of what they were doing, an unknown motorist, perhaps for understandable reasons, panicked and stopped his vehicle on the carriageway.
"As a result, another driver, in my judgment it would appear blameless, had to swerve not only to avoid the debris in the road but also the car which had stopped in front of him.
"As a result a fatal collision occurred in which Mr Wells lost his life and the occupant of the other vehicle involved sustained a broken arm."
He said he considered their behaviour deliberate and malicious, rather than simply stupid.
Alex Greenwood, defending Cotter, had said the teenager accepted "a degree of moral culpability" for the tragic events which occurred.
Mr Greenwood said it was Cotter who had contacted the emergency services on seeing the crash happen.
He said Cotter had significant problems in his life, used drugs and suffered from ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Lucy Crowther, representing Type, described his behaviour as childish and said he was a follower, not a leader.
She said his family had been targeted by members of the community following the incident: "The community, while understandably horrified, have not responded with any dignity at all.
"The police have been called out as a result of attacks on the family and family home some 25 times since this incident."
Jane Rowley, defending the girl, said she was a naive child with learning difficulties, who lacked parental control and appropriate boundaries, Wales Online reported.
She said the girl, who is on the child protection register, had attempted to take an overdose because of her fear at being sent into custody.
Speaking outside court, Robert Coleman, an uncle of Mr.Wells, said he did not think the sentences were long enough.
"They all knew what they were doing, they're not little kids," Mr Coleman said.
"John was such a nice chap. He was going to represent Wales at kickboxing and was looking to open a kickboxing club for youngsters.
"He was a brickie by trade and was going into management, and he looked after his mother as well.
"He was in the process of buying a house with his girlfriend at the time."