Censorship call after assault : The Sun, 13 June, 2008: A SENIOR judge today urged Whitehall to investigate ways to censor internet images which are so shocking ‘they should never be seen’.
The call came after four teenagers were jailed for a ‘sickening’ assault filmed on a phone.
Paul Vickers, 40, was left paralysed and blind in his right eye after being beaten with a metal wheel brace and having his head stamped on as he slept.
Judge David Rennie said the attack was inspired by violent images said to be easily accessible on the web and itself was intended to be uploaded to the net.
He told the Old Bailey: ‘I believe this was copying and adding to the violent images already in circulation.
‘I am not sure if there is any sufficient censorship of material before it finds its way into the public domain.
‘I would urge the Government to continue to investigate this problem to see if there is anything else that can be done to protect people from images which are so shocking that they should never be seen.’
Mr Vickers was attacked early in the morning of July 24 last year as he slept in a bus shelter in Fishbourne, near Chichester, West Sussex.
Oliver Skeggs, 17, of Velyn Avenue, Chichester, was given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of 13 years after being convicted of attempted murder and admitting an attack seven days earlier when a wheelchair-bound man was robbed.
The court heard how he leered into the phone camera before launching the attack on Mr Vickers.
Ross Beeby, 19, of Hampton Court, Bognor, West Sussex, was jailed for 12 years after admitting grievous bodily harm with intent.
He had grinned at the camera before jumping on Mr Vickers’s head.
Alistair Field, 17, of Osborne Crescent, Chichester, who filmed the attack on Skeggs’s phone, was jailed for eight years as was Terry Bryan, 19, of Quest Close, Chichester, the fourth member of the gang.
The court heard that Bryan had a series of other ‘disturbing’ and violent video clips on his phone, including one of a woman being shot in the head, and another of a hostage being beheaded.
Field and Bryan were convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent.
The judge told the teenagers: ‘The fact that you wanted a video souvenir of this attack is one of the most shocking and sickening aspects of this case.’
The judge added: ‘The four of you reached an agreement to subject him to a vicious and cowardly attack which would be filmed.
‘Your actions resulted in him very nearly being killed and has without doubt completely ruined his life.
‘And for what? The sickening, sadistic pleasure of giving a man a savage beating so some of you and others could enjoy playing and re-playing the violence.’
He said the other violent clips on Bryan’s phone appeared to be the sort that could easily be downloaded from the internet.
‘There is a direct connection between the filming of the attack on Mr Vickers and violent film clips of this sort,’ the judge said.
Turning to Skeggs, he said: ‘You told a probation officer that you thought it would be a laugh. You appeared to approach that task with relish.’
Mr Vickers, a homeless man, was ‘oblivious’ to the beating by Skeggs as he slept, and later to being ‘stamped from a considerable height’ by Beeby.
The attack left a fist-shaped impression in his head, said John Williams, prosecuting.
‘One sees on the film the first blow and hears the sound of the next two blows,’ said Mr Williams.
The four attackers took a still photograph of Mr Vickers on the phone before abandoning him and his life was only saved by the intervention of passers-by and emergency services.
Police never recovered the original phone on which the attack was filmed, but the footage was sent to Bryan, who showed it to a neighbour. The neighbour told Bryan’s mother, who informed police.
Mr Vickers underwent a six hour operation following the attack, which left him with multiple skull fractures and needing a plate in his head.
He now lives in a care centre in Bournemouth where he will remain ‘for the considerable future’.
Seven days before the attack, Skeggs took part in the robbery of a 59-year-old man at his home on the same street, in which he feared he would die.
The man was beaten with a wooden baton and had a £2,000 decorative china mug and a bracelet stolen.
Richard Cherrill, for Skeggs, blamed a violent upbringing at the hands of his stepfather and the effects of skunk cannabis for how he had turned out.
‘From the age of 12 he became the slave of that particularly odious and obnoxious drug,’ he said.