27 May 2004 Edition

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Sectarian attackers jailed

Three Antrim teenagers were jailed last week for a sectarian hatchet attack which left 15-year-old Catholic Michael Craig permanently brain damaged and paralysed in one hand.

In August 2002, Craig was struck on the head with the hatchet and left seriously injured and fighting for his live in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

At Belfast Court on Friday 21 May, 19-year-old Rodney Crawford and his brother William, both from Rathglyn in the Stiles Estate in Antrim, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to Craig. Each were sentenced to six years and ordered to serve a further 18 months probation upon their release.

Robert Miliken (17) from Rathkyle, also in the Stiles Estate, admitted causing an affray and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years with 18 months probation.

Judge McCollum said the accused were part of a sort of war party that carried out a deliberate premeditated attack with a sectarian motive.

"They were out to injure or maim some person, any person they could lay their hands on belonging to the Catholic group," he said.

He said the Crawford brothers would have been handed sentences approaching ten years if they had been adults, but acknowledged that the pair had an unsettled background and "difficulties adjusting to the ordinary business of living".

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