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Home   Ashford   News   Article

Ashford teenagers Jeandre Van Der Watt and Brandon Strotten locked up for racist snowball attack on Ramanjit Sohi

03 March 2014
by Paul Hooper

Two teenage thugs have been jailed for a "gratuitous, cowardly and racist" attack on a stranger in Ashford.

The incident near the Park Farm Housing Estate was witnessed by parents and children who were enjoying the snowy afternoon in a nearby playground.

Jeandre Van Der Watt, 18, and 17-year-old Brandon Strotten turned on innocent Ramanjit Sohi and his wife Neha, who were out shopping, by pelting them with snowballs.

Ramanjit Sohi suffered a broken nose and cheekbone

Ramanjit Sohi suffered a broken nose and cheekbone

The teenage yobs then launched a tirade of racist abuse before punching and kicking Mr Sohi to the ground and leaving him with injuries which resulted in needing hospital treatment.

Judge Simon James took the decision to allow KentOnline to name Strotten "to reassure the community that justice has been done".

"When you finally realised the enormity of your actions you both reacted like the boys you are rather than the men you thought you were..." - Judge Simon James

A jury at Canterbury Crown Court had convicted Van Der Watt, of Poppy Mead, and Strotten, of Constantine Road, both Kingsnorth, of causing grievous bodily harm with intent - and a racially aggravated infliction of GBH. Both had denied the offences.

He jailed Van Der Watt for 42 months and sent Strotten, because of his age, to a young offenders' institution for the same period.

Judge James told him: "This was a cowardly and unprovoked attack on a complete stranger.

"Your victim was attacked simply because he had the temerity to try and stand up to you and your friends about your anti-social and intimidating behaviour.

"For his troubles he was racially abused, knocked to the ground where you both, together with another unidentified youth, kicked him repeatedly as he lay curled up in a ball with his hands around his head trying to protect himself."

Jeandre Van Der Watt will also spend 42 months behind bars

Jeandre Van Der Watt will also spend 42 months behind bars

The judge said parents and children at a nearby play area were forced to witness the "frightening and gratuitous incident".

At the trial, the jury heard how police had been dealing with a number of complaints about snowballing during the weekend of January 20 last year.

Mr and Mrs Sohi were walking in Bluebell Road heading towards a local Tesco store when they saw a group of at least eight male and female youngsters.

The couple notice the youngsters were throwing snowballs at each other and at passing motorists - and decided to cross the road.

Brandon Strotten was locked up for 42 months

Brandon Strotten was locked up for 42 months

Prosecutor Ian Foinette said Mr Sohi was then hit by a snowball and turned around to see who had thrown it - and was struck a second time.

He told the youngsters: "Stop it. It's not right" and was then confronted by one of the group shouting obscenities, adding: "What are you going to do?"

Van Der Watt, Strotten and at least one other thug then began punching and kicking Mr Sohi - who at one point was curled up in a foetal position.

During the incident, the yobs directed racist comments towards Mr and Mrs Sohi, the jury heard.

At the trial, lawyers claimed that the two were not the aggressors - but the judge said he rejected that claim.

"I reject any suggestion that this offence involved any provocation. You were the only aggressors and the only ones offering violence," he added.

The attack took place in Sheepfold Lane, Ashford

The attack took place in Sheepfold Lane, Ashford

Andrew Espley, for the South African-born Van Der Watt, said his client had also been the victim of racist abuse in the past.

He said that on the morning of the trial he had written a letter of apology to his victims in which he says he thought about what he had done and "he felt awful".

Mr Espley added the general labourer was now a man "who is ashamed of his behaviour."

"This was a group of teens behaving like idiots and a 17-year-old showing off in front of a group of boys and girls."

Michael Stradling, for Strotten, who has previous convictions for battery, said the teenager now felt disgusted.

"This was stupid, foolish and downright reckless rather than him being bad," he added.

Judge Simon James sits at Canterbury Crown Court

Judge Simon James sits at Canterbury Crown Court



But the judge told weeping Van Der Watt and Strotton: "You are both still young and there is every reason to hope you have the capacity to change your ways.

"Indeed, your reaction upon conviction seemed to me to speak volumes. It is one thing to act tough when surrounded by your friends and you outnumber your victim.

"When you finally realised the enormity of your actions you both reacted like the boys you are rather than the men you thought you were."

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