Two attackers inflicted terrifying violence in “vigilante justice” on a man they wrongly claimed was a paedophile, after the victim was lured to a house in Burnley.
The vulnerable complainant was pinned to the floor, punched, attempts were made to gag him with a cloth and he then “felt pain in his behind” before he was threatened.
The hearing was told how the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered an anal tear and other injuries after his ordeal at the hands of Stephen Daniel Holmes (23) and another man, on March 7th. Holmes, the hearing was told, has been in custody on remand since, has “found religion,” and has become a Buddhist.
Holmes, of no fixed address, who has a criminal record and was subject to a suspended jail term at the time, has now been locked up for a total of 17 months. His then partner, Sophie Louise Cooke (21) who had lured the victim to the property and “set up” the violence – although she didn’t know more than one man would mete it out – was spared jail. She had no previous convictions. Cooke was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for a year.
Holmes, from Burnley, but of no fixed address and Cooke, formerly of Hawarden Street, Nelson, now living in Rishton, had both earlier admitted conspiracy to commit assault assault causing actual bodily harm. Holmes had also pleaded guilty to theft of the victim’s phone.
Prosecutor David Clarke said when the victim arrived at the house, he went inside and saw two men. Holmes was there, as was another, unnamed second person.
The victim was told to go to an upstairs bedroom and he was then pinned down to the floor. The prosecutor continued: “It seems the vast majority of the violence was perpetrated by the other man. He started punching the victim, calling him a paedophile and attempted to gag him with a cloth, but the victim says the attempts were not successful. He struggled. His trousers and his underwear were pulled down and whilst Mr Holmes held him down, he was turned over by the other man. He felt a pain to his behind. He felt something sharp and that went on for a good five minutes or so.”
Mr Clarke said the unknown man then told the victim: “You better not say anything or else I am going to stab you.” After his ordeal, the victim went to a friend’s house, told her he had been assaulted and she took him to the police station. The complainant arrived there at about 6-30pm, gave a short account of what had happened to him and was later interviewed.
The prosecutor said at 9-52pm that evening, a text message was sent to Cooke’s phone, which read: “We left him inside and said not to leave for 10 minutes.” She replied: “Was he proper scared?” The response she received was: “Yes.”
Mr Clarke said when Cooke was interviewed by police, she claimed she thought her boyfriend was going to give the victim a warning.
Simon Gurney (defending Holmes) said he had never before been convicted of violence and his behaviour was “totally out of character.”
Mr Gurney said: “It’s clear alcohol played a factor in the offending, as it has done in the past. He added: “He has found religion whilst in custody and has found the teachings of Buddhism to be something that he has some interest in.”
Mr Gurney added Holmes planned to resume his relationship with his wife.
Philip Holden (defending Cooke) said: “She is a most unlikely candidate to be involved in this offence.” The barrister said the defendant had genuine sympathy for the victim and didn’t expect matters to go quite as far as they ended up going. He added the victim had been arrested and released without charge.
Passing sentence, Judge Beverley Lunt said Holmes had “imaginary grievances,” over the victim and told him if he had believed there were any concerns, logic dictated he would have gone to the police.
Judge Lunt said to Cooke: “I am entirely satisfied you knew what was going to happen in that house was not just a good talking to. Violence was going to be used on this man.”
The judge went on: “You set this up. You were more than content to put him in danger.” However, she added, Cooke did not know two men were waiting there and she did not go to the property herself.