Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham gangs banned from city in landmark ruling

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Media captionPolice try to serve injunctions to Birmingham gang members

Two rival criminal groups have been hit with what police describe as the largest ever gang injunction.

Eighteen men, aged between 19 and 29 and some in prison, are banned from parts of Birmingham and must register phones and vehicles with police.

The two-year orders aim to disrupt gang-related violence between the Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Crew.

West Midlands Police said it was "a landmark ruling".

The orders follow a spate of firearms offences in the city in 2015 and 2016, but the gangs have struck fear across parts of Birmingham for many years.

They gained notoriety in 2003 when their violent feud claimed the lives of two girls - Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis - outside a late-night new year party in the city. Four men were later jailed for life for their murders.

The gangs have also been behind countless drive-by shootings, drug dealing, intimidation, robberies and kidnappings.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption The men are banned from entering the city centre, Handsworth, Newtown, Winson Green and Lozells

Letisha's mother Marcia, an anti-gun campaigner, welcomed the injunctions.

"I see gangs as vermin in Birmingham and any means to help it stop spreading to vulnerable, naive and innocent young people is a positive way forward in our war on violent crime," she said.

"As I have said time and time again, violent crime has no winners. It just causes heartache, pain and has a life-changing impact on innocent victims and the perpetrators' families."

After more recent incidents of gun crime in the city, West Midlands Police and the council sought to secure the injunctions in a civil case heard at Birmingham Crown Court earlier this year.

The force secured interim injunctions in 2016 and said at the time it did not want to identify anyone until they were permanent. The BBC revealed their names after obtaining the county court documents.

More than 80 people from the Home Office and police gave evidence between February and June ahead of the orders being granted in July, which the force has revealed for the first time now.

Two have already been issued, three men are being sought by police and three properties were visited by officers on Wednesday.

The men are forbidden from associating with each other and entering the city centre, Handsworth, Newtown, Winson Green and Lozells.

In a copy of an injunction seen by the BBC, gang members are also banned from appearing in music videos that include material linked to the Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Crew. One such music video was shown during the court proceedings.

Image caption Police visited properties on Wednesday to serve injunctions

Ten other men will receive the orders in jail where restrictions will be imposed on certain visitors to limit any gang associations, police said.

Among those to be given the injunctions in prison are two men believed to have been the "armed response" faction of the Burger Bar Boys.

Reial Phillips, 21, from Winson Green was jailed for 27 years last year after seven people were injured in a series of shootings during a feud with members of the Johnson Crew.

His co-defendant 23-year-old Ashai Gray, from Walsall, was jailed for nine years after admitting conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.

Police said their actions "brought fear" to people in the West Midlands.

Gang injunctions came into force in England and Wales in 2011. Home Office figures show that between January 2011 and January 2014, 88 had been put in place.

The first one issued in the West Midlands was in 2012.

'Cosmetic gesture'

But solicitor Errol Robinson, who represented two of the four men jailed for the new year murders, criticised the move.

"They don't change behaviour or address underlying issues," he said.

"Injunctions become a bit of a trophy and encourage rebellion. Gang members like to show that they're not listening to orders so will breach orders.

"It's a cheap way of trying to solve crime but there is no evidence to suggest that they work.

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Media captionEx Birmingham gang member says injunctions are pointless

"They're just a cosmetic gesture to show people that something is being done about gangs - but actually the results are minimum to none."

From former gang members the BBC has spoken to, there is little support for the mechanism, BBC Midlands Correspondent Sima Kotecha said.

She said a number of gang members had said that if a person is banned from going to a certain part of a city, they will just go somewhere else and find others who have the same goal of causing violence and disruption.

Image caption The gangs gained notoriety in 2003 when friends Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17, were shot dead outside a new year party

Birmingham has seen another spike in gun and knife crime in 2017, with nine fatal stabbings this year. None of the men named in the injunctions are involved, police said.

Det Sgt Ian Comfort said: "This is relatively new legislation and we believe that securing final full injunctions on such a large number of gang members is a UK first.

"The injunctions are applied for in the civil court in addition to sentences handed out by the criminal court for offences. They are an additional measure to help control the offenders and keep the community safe."

Supt Mat Shaer, neighbourhood policing superintendent for Birmingham, said the injunctions were "not sought lightly" and the police, council and other groups had already made "exhaustive efforts with these men" and their families to try and steer them away gang culture.


Analysis: BBC Special Correspondent Peter Wilson

Organised gangs in Birmingham have been a part of the city's life since the 1870s. Some have been mythologised on TV such as the Peaky Blinders.

But today's gangs linked to guns and drugs are far from glamorous and bring terror and misery to many people's lives.

The names Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Crew sprang on to the crime scene in the late 1990s.

Chaotic and quick to wreak violence, the gangs' most shocking crime came at a new year's party in 2003, when two innocent teenage girls, Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis, died in a spray of machine-gun fire in a drive-by shooting as members of the Burger Bar Boys attempted to kill a Johnson Crew man standing outside.

That shocking display of gang callousness led to a concerted effort by government, police and the city council, and 10 years later it led some to believe that the gangs had been defeated as gun crime fell dramatically.

But in the last 18 months, a new generation of would-be gang members have arisen and shootings have begun to surge upwards.

Even in the last few weeks, the police have been shot at as they carried out an anti-gun operation in the Ladywood area of the city.


The men made subject to the injunctions

  • Naasir Francis, 19, from Nechells
  • Baboucar Huma, 19, from Handsworth
  • Akeen Ivy-Foster, 20, from Springhill
  • Ravelle Hutchinson, 20, from Winson Green
  • Rayani Sutherland, 21, from Aston
  • Omarni Bernard-Sewell, 21, from Selly Oak
  • Lawrence Morgan, 21, from Nechells
  • Jerome Jones, 21, from Erdington
  • Jerome Christie, 21, from Nechells
  • Reial Phillips, 21, from Winson Green
  • Ushane Jeffers, 23, from Newtown
  • Kayne Robinson, 23, from Springhill
  • Ashai Grey, 23, from Walsall
  • Jacob Brown, 24, from Handsworth
  • Cash Wallace, 24, from Winson Green
  • Ishmail Lee, 29, from Wolverhampton
  • Isaac Duffus, 28, from Erdington
  • Tesfa Bernard-Wheeler, 21, from Hockley

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