FOUR teenage members of a girl robbery gang have been freed after the Court of Appeal ruled locking them up does not help society.
The ladette mob, from Nelson and Oldham, took a mobile phone from an eight-year-old child in Manchester, and one of their number attacked older teenage boys to snatch iPods and Blackberries.
Three of the girls, aged 16 to 18, were locked up for four months for robbery at Manchester Minshall Street Crown Court last month, and the other, aged 15, was handed a six-month stretch in a young offenders’ institution for the same offence.
But two senior judges, sitting at London’s Court of Appeal, freed all four on Thursday after ruling none of them orchestrated the attacks, and they needed help rather than punishment.
Mr Justice Openshaw told the court all the girls had come from difficult backgrounds, with one youngster having to fend for her and her siblings from the age of 12.
Another, who had learning difficulties, was illiterate and had not been to school since she was 11, the judge said.
The youngest was involved in a string of mobile phone robberies in Salford last year, and even verbally abused and intimidated her victims’ parents when they went to their children’s aid, the court heard.
But the court heard all four were drawn into the gang by an 18-year-old ringleader, who bullied the others to get involved and did not appeal her 16-month sentence.
On that basis, Mr Justice Openshaw, sitting with Mr Justice Burnett, quashed all four sentences, replacing all of them with Youth Rehabiliation Orders, including 12 months of supervision from probation workers.
The judge said: “It is important that sentencing courts remember the principle of the youth justice system is to prevent offending by young people and it is their obligation to have regard to the welfare of the offender.
“Custody is a measure of last resort. It is not at all clear to us the learned judge had all these factors in the forefront of his mind when passing these sentences.”