THE drowning of a man has prompted a judge to pass lenient sentences today on three of his relatives who were involved in a violent clash between rival gangs from Sedbury and Chepstow.
Rikki Baldwin was also a defendant in the case but died in May this year after being seen jumping from a bridge into the River Severn. An inquest into his death is yet to be held.
Although Judge Jamie Tabor QC allowed the three men to walk free from Gloucester crown court he warned he will jail anyone involved in similar trouble in Sedbury in future.
His stepfather, Duncan Peters, 37, stepson Jordan Thorne-Peters, 18, and nephew Ben Thorne, also 18, were all in the dock today after admitting involvement in the violence.
After hearing of the roles the three played during the skirmishing in Sedbury on April 1st last year Judge Tabor said he took the effect of Baldwin's death on them into account.
"We all know that the fourth defendant, who was your relation, is no longer before us," said the judge. "None of us know whether his death is directly or indirectly connected with this court appearance.
"But if you have not learned your lesson from these tragic events you never will. I hope those in Chepstow hear what I have said as well.
"Nothing I can do by way of sentence can possibly in any way meet what has already happened. You know that and I know that. "
The judge said his decision to allow the three defendants their liberty was 'exceptional.'
"In the ordinary course of events you would be going to prison and I hope that is understood," he said.
Duncan Peters, of Beachley rd, Sedbury, who admitted affray, was placed on a 3 months 8pm-6am curfew and ordered to pay £100 costs.
Jordan Thorne-Peters, also of Beachley road, who also admitted affray was sentenced to do 120 hours of unpaid work and also pay £100 costs.
And Ben Thorne, of The Threeway, Littledean, nr Cinderford, who admitted possessing an offensive weapon, was also ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work and pay costs of £100.
Rikki Baldwin, also of Beachley rd, Sedbury, had also been charged with affray but proceedings against him were stayed by the court after his death. His body was found on the banks of the River Severn near Blakeney in May this year after being seen by a passing train passenger.
Jane Rowley, prosecuting at an earlier hearing, said that on the night of April 1st last year rival gangs from Chepstow and Sedbury were involved in a series of disturbances and skirmishes in Sedbury.
The Chepstow gang, she said, had made threats to Thorne-Peters and Peters had issued some threats of his own. Thorne was seen in possession of a metal bar or tentpole during the incident.
During one exchange, Thorne-Peters and Peters allegedly punched Edward Patrick, she said. Mr Patrick managed to run off, but he was dazed and covered with blood.
He was later taken to the Royal Gwent Hospital where he was treated for cuts, bruises, swelling and scratches to his head, neck and back.
Today, prosecutor Philip Warren said the Crown accepted a basis of plea put forward by Thorne-Peters in which he said he and Thorne had gone to Wyedean Field with others and were returning home when they saw a large crowd following them.
Thorne-Peters said there was then a confrontation between the two groups and he was thrown to the ground and kicked. He hit out at people in the 'opposing' group and he believed Mr Patrick was 'one of the aggressors.'
Duncan Peters put forward a basis of plea that he was at home after a bike ride and had just ordered a takeaway pizza when Baldwin shouted that there was a large crowd outside.
He said he looked out and saw Thorne-Peters being assaulted and he left the house an pushed one of the assailants away. He accepted that the person he pushed was Mr Patrick.
He also accepted that he was angry with Mr Patrick and lunged and swore at him but did not connect.
Anna Midgeley, for Duncan Peters, said he could not do community unpaid work because of a disability arising from a motorcycling injury. She said if he was to have a curfew imposed it could cause difficulty for him looking after livestock in his garden unless it was extended to cover his grounds.
For Jordan, she asked the court to follow a pre-sentence report recommendation for unpaid work.
"He says he has grown up since these offences," she said.
For Ben Thorne, solicitor Joe Maloney said "He was only ever on the periphery of these matters. "
But Judge Tabor said the pre-sentence report on Thorne revealed that he knew there was going to be a fight with another group and he was 'prepared to get involved in it.'
Mr Maloney said "He has discussed how to avoid this sort of situation in the future. He very much regrets his involvement."
Judge Tabor told the trio there was no excuse for groups of people arranging to fight in the way that happened that night.
"These scenes of public disorder simply will not be tolerated,"
he said. "I am perfectly well aware that there has been a degree of rivalry between groups from Chepstow and Sedbury for a long time.
"I want to make it quite plain not only to you but to those in Chepstow who may be of a like mind - if there is any repeat by anyone in Chepstow or Sedbury of what took place last April they will come before me and they will go to prison. Full stop!"
The judge told Peters that the curfew would cover his garden and allow him to 'look after your turkeys.'