Four people have been sentenced following a ‘disgraceful’ mass brawl which brought York city centre to a standstill – but were all spared prison.
Joshua Brownless, 29, Anthony Cockerill, 26, Dean Taggart, 29, and Demi Walker, 22, were in the thick of the late-night melee outside a nightclub which long-serving police officers said was the worst case of street violence they had ever seen.
Numerous people were involved in the “terrifying” violence as two warring groups fought in the middle of the street in front of “horrified” bystanders and people dining in restaurants around Rougier Street, York Crown Court heard.
CCTV showed people being punched, kicked and thrown to the ground in various clashes outside Popworld which continued even after police arrived, said prosecutor Jade Edwards.
She said door staff called police just after 9pm on February 2, 2019, to report a “large-scale” disturbance.
Taggart and his brother-in-law Brownless were in one group and Walker and Cockerill were in the other.
Both groups had been to Popworld where Taggart and Brownless were seen fighting with a man and a woman in the other group. Cockerill then weighed in as all three men traded punches.
Taggart grabbed hold of one of the men and “delivered several upper-cut-type punches”. He himself ended up on the ground, being kicked by another man, and a woman in his crowd also ended up on the deck.
She then got up and pushed another man who was fighting with Brownless, but she too was punched in the face and knocked back to the ground.
She got back up again but was then thrown to the ground once more by Walker, who got on top of her and started pulling her hair.
Taggart tried to separate them before he himself was knocked to the ground again, where he kicked out at Cockerill.
A Street Ranger arrived and saw Cockerill laid out on the ground with another man sat on his head.
Taggart came over and kicked Cockerill in the head. The blow was said to be “extremely forceful, like how one would kick a football with the laces of their shoe”.
Meanwhile, Walker was still on top of the woman from the other group in the middle off the road. One of the men pulled Walker off her, but she went back to the prostrate woman despite the attention of police and started punching her, “haymaker style”, to the face and body.
The victim was curled up on the ground, with her chin to her chest “to protect herself from the blows”.
One officer said she was startled to see Walker continuing to throw punches given the presence of police and sirens blaring.
Families watched in horror
Cockerill, Walker and Taggart were taken into custody. Brownless was arrested subsequently after being identified on CCTV. All four defendants are from Sunderland.
Ms Edwards said that during the brawl, men and women could be seen “rolling around on the floor” on a busy road where traffic came to a standstill. Extra police units had to be called in due to the sheer number of people involved in the fracas.
One officer said that “the group was so large and (there was) so much going on at once it was difficult to describe (on the radio) what was happening”.
Another officer said that in his five years’ service, he had “never seen so much disorder at 9pm in the city centre”.
“There were couples and families looking on with horror from restaurants at what was happening,” said Ms Edwards.
“There were dozens of law-abiding members of the public close by who witnessed it.”
‘Different people now’
Brownless, of Tollerton Drive, Sunderland, Taggart, of Monument View, Houghton-Le-Spring, and Cockerill, of Foxley, Washington, admitted affray at the first opportunity. Walker, of Welburn Road, Washington, initially denied the offence but ultimately pleaded guilty. They appeared for sentence at York Crown, sitting at Bradford Crown Court, on Tuesday.
Defence counsel said none of the defendants had any previous convictions and were normally well-behaved.
But judge Simon Hickey described the violence as a “disgraceful act” which had brought the city centre “to a halt”.
He said, however, that all the defendants were “different people now and you are ashamed of what you have done”.
He said that each of them was otherwise of “impeccable character”.
Brownless, Cockerill and Taggart were each given 12-month suspended prison terms with 100 hours’ unpaid work.
Walker was given a 15-month jail term because she had not pleaded guilty straight away, but this was also suspended for 18 months. She too was made to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work.