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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Thug Hjalti Svavarsson finally behind bars eight years after kicking soldier Douglas Pope in brawl at Howe barracks in Canterbury

08 January 2014
by Paul Hooper

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

A thug who fled to Iceland eight years ago after kicking a Canterbury-based soldier is now behind bars after coming in from the cold.

Hjalti Svavarsson went on the run in 2005 after being charged with affray at Howe barracks, where his victim Douglas Pope was based.

He was convicted in his absence the following year and given a 12-month sentence in a young offender's institution because he was 20 at the time.

Now Svavarsson – a successful businessman living in Germany – will serve his year in an adult prison after being arrested flying into Heathrow last week.

Immigration officials discovered there had been an international arrest warrant outstanding and he was remanded in custody.

As his barrister Barnaby Hope began pleading for a lesser sentence, Judge Adele Williams told him: "The law must take it course must it not, unless the law has now been changed and I have missed something?

"There is nothing I can do about it. There was a conviction, a lawful sentence imposed and he has now been arrested on a warrant... the sentence must bite.

"He should have come and faced the music and then he could have participated in our criminal justice system."

Mr Hope told Canterbury Crown Court that Svavarsson had chosen to stay with his grandfather in Iceland rather than attend the trial.

"He knows he shouldn't have left," he said. "He stayed there for four years before joining a company and then travelled internationally where Criminal Records Bureau checks were made regularly and nothing came up. He assumed that nothing had come of the trial."

Howe Barracks in Canterbury

Howe Barracks in Canterbury

The barrister claimed that Svavarsson – who has since married and settled in Germany - had travelled eight times to the UK in the past four years.

But the judge retorted: "That may be your instructions, but I find that very hard to believe he wouldn't have been arrested the moment he set foot inside the UK - unless he had travelled on another passport."

"The law must take it course must it not, unless the law has now been changed and I have missed something...?" - Judge Adele Williams

Svavarsson, who had lived in Reed Avenue, Canterbury at the time, was convicted of affray after a jury heard he was one of three men who went to the home of a serving soldier at Howe barracks in March, 2005.

Mr Pope, who had served with the Argylls, had been repeatedly kicked in the head and body during the incident in the early hours.

The three men were arrested soon after the attack, and Svavarsson - whose mother had also lived in Canterbury - told police he had gone along as back up and when the fighting started he tried to stop it.

But the trial judge said it became clear he was the first to go into the house for the purpose of attacking the householder.

Judge Anthony Webb had said: "It is the aspect of breaking into the home of someone and committing this offence that leads me to conclude the only sentence that can properly be passed is a custodial one."

Svavarsson was convicted, a second accused was bound over to keep the peace and a third was acquitted by the jury.

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