St Albans violent crime: Teen drugs gang behind spate of attacks on rivals found guilty

St Albans Crown Court. Picture: DANNY LOO

St Albans Crown Court. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

A gang of four teenage boys who sliced off a man's nose with a machete during a spate of violent crimes against rival drug gangs in St Albans have been convicted today.

The young men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and GBH following a six-week trial at St Albans Crown Court.

Most of the offences, which occurred between December 2019 and September 2020, happened in Clarence Park, Hatfield Road and Cotlandswick in London Colney. The latter of which is where a man in his 20s had his nose sliced off with a machete on January 13 2020.

SEE: Outbreak of gang crime in Clarence Park

The offences prompted the creation of Operation Luge to target the gang who initially started with drug dealing but quickly escalated to robbing other dealers from rival gangs.

Det Sgt Tom Evans, from the Local Crime Unit, has been leading on the police response: “The escalation in violence at the end of 2019 into 2020 was so dramatic that we were gravely concerned there was a real risk that someone may be killed because they were carrying weapons including machetes and swords.”

The offences covered in the conspiracy charge are a GBH and robbery on December 9 2019 in York Road in St Albans; robbery on December 21 2019 in Artisan Crescent in St Albans, GBH in Cotlandswick in London Colney on January 13 2020 and a robbery in Sainsbury’s in London Colney on September 23 2020.

The following men, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will be sentenced at a date to be confirmed.

· A 19-year-old of no fixed abode.

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· Two 18-year-olds from St Albans.

· A 17-year-old from London Colney

A 19-year-old from Welwyn Garden City was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit GBH and no decision was reached for the count of conspiracy to commit robbery, so a re-trial will be held for this matter.

Det Sgt Evans said: “We are delighted that these teenagers were convicted today as they were dangerous, not just to others, but also to themselves. They arranged drug meets in residential streets armed with machetes and swords, which were witnessed by residents, including children, and taxi drivers.”

Police teams including the Local Crime Unit, Safer Neighbourhood Team, the Community Safety Unit and partner agencies including St Albans City and District Council plus the youth offending team were involved in the response.

SEE: How police tackled violence

The St Albans police Community Safety Unit applied to St Albans Magistrates for a Criminal Behaviour Order for one of the 18-year-olds, which was granted on 17 February, 2021 following ongoing ASB with conditions not to associate with his fellow defendants.

The 19-year-old of no fixed abode was issued a Community Protection Warning (CPW) on January 12 2020 with similar restrictions as well as places he was not permitted to go, which included Clarence Park, the Alban Way, Hatfield Road and Granville Road.

Similarly, the other 18-year-old was also issued a CPW on January 6 2020 followed by a Community Protection Notice (CPN) on April 21 2020.

A 17-year-old was also given a CPW followed by a CPN on August 17 2020, which included restrictions not to go to Clarence Park.

DS Evans added: “It was one of the biggest police responses to a series of incidents in St Albans. The investigation was unusual because the indictment is conspiracy (to commit GBH and robbery) rather than a list of charges. This was because we were unable to prove which teenager was responsible for the offences, but we knew they were all involved.”

The boys, who were aged between 16 and 18 at the time of offending, met at school in St Albans.

St Albans Neighbourhood Inspector Andy Wiseman said: “I hope this conviction reassures the community who were unfortunate to witness violence or see weapons in the city during 2020. There is no place for violence in this district.

"My officers are determined to bring offenders before the courts, even with COVID-19 delays, and see them held accountable for their actions with support from youth offending teams. We wanted a long-term solution to problems to make sure every resident can enjoy our parks and improve the community’s quality of life.”

He added: “Please always contact us if you see anyone acting suspiciously, suspect drug dealing may be taking place or see any weapons. Rest assured we act on every piece of information we receive.”