Teen spared custody after cousin shot

A TEENAGE boy who blasted his cousin in the face with a shotgun moments after playing a violent video game has avoided custody.But magistrates strongly criticised their own sentencing powers as “totally hamstrung” after describing the case as extremely serious - and revealing a lengthy custody term for the youth had been their “preferred option”.

A TEENAGE boy who blasted his cousin in the face with a shotgun moments after playing a violent video game has avoided custody.

But magistrates strongly criticised their own sentencing powers as “totally hamstrung” after describing the case as extremely serious - and revealing a lengthy custody term for the youth had been their “preferred option”.

The 15-year-old, who was 13 at the time and cannot be named because of his age, was given a three-year supervision order.

The boy was found guilty last month of causing grievous bodily harm after shooting his cousin at point blank range in the face with a 12-bore shotgun.


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His three-day trial heard that the pair, and a third youngster, had been playing controversial PlayStation 2 game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas just moments before the shocking incident in Haverhill in November 2004.

Sentencing the defendant yesterday at Bury St Edmunds Youth Court, presiding magistrate Huw Davies said: “This is an extremely serious case and we have been completely restricted and totally hamstrung in sentencing.

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“As a result of the defendant's age at the time of the offence and the time it has taken to come to trial, we are bound by these factors to move away from our preferred option of a lengthy detention and training order.”

The trial heard that the defendant had been playing with two young friends when he loaded the 12-bore gun and pointed it at his cousin to “scare him”.

The victim, who was also 13 at the time and cannot be named because of his age, had said he “thought he was going to die” when three pellets pierced his brain.

The court yesterday heard how the victim had two recent operations to remove ten pellets from his skull, cheek, gum and scalp and underwent an operation to remove a fragment from his eye socket just weeks before the three-day trial.

In a victim impact study statement, his mother said he was doing well on a “day-to-day basis” although the football fan was still unable to play any sport and there were fears he could face serious mobility, vision and speech problems in the future.

James Hodivala , in mitigation, said the defendant had been an “immature young man” at the time of the incident.

He said: “He felt, to some extent, jealous of the developing friendship between the other two boys. Perhaps by having the gun in the first place was a way of getting some attention and inclusion in the group.

“It is a not a case of a young boy deliberately intending to harm anyone - it was a tragic accident.

“The repercussions of what happened still haunts him to this day. The uncertainty of his future has preyed very heavily on his mind and a custody term could have a very detrimental affect in the long run.”

Mr Hodivala said the defendant had benefited from long term counselling and had plans to join the fire service or become a computer programmer.

He said the incident had caused a “rift” between the two families and, although there were plans for mediation, the court was told that a civil claim was still outstanding against the defendant's family but negotiations between the insurers were ongoing in terms of a settlement.

The defendant was also given a one-year parenting order - making parents responsible for the actions of a young person who offends or truants - and ordered to pay £600 prosecution costs.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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