St Albans violent crime: teenagers jailed for spate of attacks on rival drugs gangs
Laura Bill & Matt Adams
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Four teenage boys involved in a spate of violent crimes against rival drug gangs in St Albans have all been jailed today.
Kai Henry-Smith, 18, of no fixed abode, Harley Kavanagh, 17, of Willoughby Court in London Colney, Isaac Wallace-Greaves, 18, of Cottonmill Crescent in St Albans, and Kobi Nelson, 19, of De Parys Avenue in Bedford were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and GBH following a six-week trial at St Albans Crown Court earlier this year.
Henry-Smith also previously pleaded guilty to an additional indictment, a Section 18 wounding with intent and possession of a bladed article - a machete - that occurred in Grindcobbe in St Albans on November 4.
The offences covered in the conspiracy charge were 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 in which a man in his 20s had his nose sliced off with a machete, and a robbery in Sainsbury’s car park in London Colney on September 23 2020.
Henry-Smith, Kavanagh and Wallace-Greaves all received 12 years with a five year licence, which means they will serve a minimum of eight years. Nelson received six years, reflecting that he was only involved in the attack in Artisan Crescent.
Most of the offences, which occurred between December 2019 and September 2020, happened in Clarence Park, Hatfield Road and Cotlandswick in London Colney, with the boys' criminal association relating back to when they were students at Verulam School.
Judge Richard Foster, passing sentence at St Albans Crown Court, said: "Your conduct is not what the school meant by its motto 'to do my duty'."
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The court heard their activities dated back to October 22 2019, when police forced entry to a property in St Edmunds Walk to find it was being used as a base for taking and dealing in drugs, with the four boys 'cuckooing' the property after taking it over from its vulnerable resident.
Judge Foster said this should have encouraged them to mend their ways: "Instead it emboldened you to set about on a trail of seemingly unlimited violence in St Albans over the subsequent months.
"It took some astute police work to link together a number of what would have seemed initially as separate criminal incidents."
With regards to the attack in Cotlandswick, the judge told Kavanagh and Wallace-Greaves: "You behaved like a savage. It is hard to understand how one human being can behave like that towards another."
He also said: "The armoury of weapons and other items found during the police investigation is truly horrifying, including multiple large knives of various descriptions, balaclavas, a police style baton and handcuffs.
"The facts of this case lead me to the conclusion that [you] are dangerous offenders and must be sentenced accordingly. However, in view of ages and the lengths of your sentences I am satisfied that adequate public protection can be afforded by an extended sentence rather than detention for life."
The offences prompted the creation of Operation Luge to target the gang.
Each of the defendants had their own representation.
In mitigation for Henry-Smith, it was said he was committed to his family and had been a promising footballer, and his actions showed a lack of maturity which would change over time. He was said to have been targeted and exploited by a gang of drug dealers while still at school.
Some of the evidence against Kavanagh was said to have been based on him being in the area where the offences took place, and he was a very young man, effectively a child, who had an unstable upbringing with a pattern of neglect and childhood violence. His experiences of remand in detention were also difficult, and he was attacked within days of being moved into a young offenders institute.
Wallace-Greaves was described as a much-loved son and brother, but following the break-up of his parents' marriage and the death of his grandfather he struggled at school: "This is a defendant who has seen what it is like to be a serious criminal and has decided he didn't like it."
With regards to Nelson, it was said: "I do not seek to in any way justify his behaviour, and he has to be punished for what he did, but not for something that is so speculative."
Following the sentencing, the new headteacher of Verulam School, Julie Richardson, released a statement.
She said: “Though I was not headteacher at the time I have reviewed the files and can confirm they were all excluded at different stages for very serious breaches of school rules.
“The decision to remove a child from school permanently is never taken lightly. Considerable effort is made to help them stay within a mainstream school setting.
“However, when their behaviour has a detrimental impact on the safety and learning of other students, schools are left with no choice but to take this course of action.
“Since taking over as headteacher I have introduced weekly classes for all year groups to educate our students on issues such as County Lines and grooming.
“We continue to work closely with a range of stakeholders locally including Herts police to ensure our students are safe.”