Teenager who fled the country after throwing fireworks at police during 'sickening' Bonfire Night disorder in Leeds is locked up
A teenager who fled the UK after being involved in a large scale Bonfire Night disorder in which police, firefighters and members of the public were attacked has been locked up.
Leonard Gheorghe was filmed taking part in the shocking incident as lawless crowds ran amok and police officers had fireworks aimed at them and were pelted with bricks.
The disturbance on November 5, 2019, lasted around five hours and six police officers were injured.
The police investigation and damage to property cost the taxpayer close to £200,000.
A total of 39 people, both adults and youths, were arrested over the disorder and 13 were eventually charged.
Three people were sent to custody in January this year after pleading guilty to violent disorder.
Gheorghe, 19, defied his bail conditions after being arrested over the incident and left the country for Romania.
The teenager was sent to a young offender institution for 21 months after a Judge said he was one of the most heavily involved offenders.
He stayed at the scene for four hours despite being warned by officers that he should leave the area.
Gheorghe was filmed by officers aiming a firework at officers and throwing missiles.
He was also caught on camera setting a wheelie bin alight and smashing a rock into two pieces on the ground then throwing them.
Describing the incident, Judge Simon Batiste said: "Bonfire Night in normal circumstances is an occasion when people get to celebrate historical British events.
"It should be a time for families. For children. For fun.
"You and a large number of others instead used it as an excuse to indulge in wanton violence, vandalism and destruction.
"Anyone who has watched the CCTV could not help but be horrified or sickened by the way you and the crowd in general behaved.
Much of the disorder was in the vicinity of Harehills Road and Banstead Park.
The incident lasted between four and five hours and involved the “indiscriminate discharge of fireworks”.
Waste bins and wheelie bins were set alight and pushed into the road.
Those involved in the disturbance erected makeshift barriers in the street.
Police attended the scene with riot equipment including shields and flame resistant overalls.
Officers set up cordons along Harehills Road to gradually remove the barricades and arrest suspects.
The police officers also had to provide protection for firefighters who came under attack during the disorder.
Thousands of hours of footage was obtained of the incident from police body worn cameras and local CCTV footage.
Some suspects were arrested at the scene while others were traced as officers painstakingly went through the footage.
Damage was caused to local businesses.
People travelled from other areas of the city to join in the disorder as word spread on social media.
Police officers were soon targeted when they arrived at the scene.
Fireworks were aimed at officers and there were "resounding cheers" whenever one was struck by a firework.
Fireworks were also aimed at members of the public not involved in the disturbance.
One was aimed at a local resident as he left his house.
The firework "clipped" him on the head before going into his living room
Another firework was aimed into a William Hill betting shop, narrowly missing a man as he played on a gaming machine.
Four buses travelling through the area also came under attack.
A number 45 bus had to stop outside Thackray Medical Museum as the road was blocked by a blazing wheelie bin.
The bus contained frightened passengers including a wheelchair-bound man.
Police officers who went to clear the road for the bus came under a "hail of missiles."
Four windows on the bus were smashed.
Taxpayers were left with a bill of almost £200,000 to deal with the incident.
A total of 13 police vehicles were damaged, costing £52,000 to repair.
West Yorkshire Police also spent £74,000 in deploying extra officers to the incident.
An investigation in the aftermath of the disorder cost around £85,000.
The value of damage to buses was around £4,000 and Leeds City Council had to spend £7,660 to repair road surfaces.
Six officers were injured on the night.
One officer suffered whiplash injuries and concussion after being struck on the helmet by a missile.
Another officer said it was one of the most violent things he had witnessed in 23 years with the police.
Gheorghe, who pleaded guilty to violent disorder, was remanded into custody when he appeared before the court last month.
Mark Foley, mitigating, said: "He wilfully played a part in a large scale public violence and he recognises the stupidity of his actions.
"The reason why he became involved is a mystery. It was wholly unnecessary."
Mr Foley said the defendant moved to the UK with his family five years ago.
He has a partner a two children and has worked an Uber driver.
Sentencing, Judge Batiste said he wanted to pay tribute to the police, firefighters and community leaders for the bravery they had shown during the incident.