Vigilantes jailed for terrifying anti-Muslim attack in Belfast

During the attack, the gang were heard shouting, ‘You are Muslims, why are you here?’ and, ‘Go back to your homes’

Laganside Crown Court in Belfast. Prison sentences between 22 months and 27 months were handed down to the two men guilty of the attack. Getty Images
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Two men were jailed on Thursday for a violent attack against foreign citizens at a block of flats in south Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Sam Croskery, 21, and Dylan Stuart Waggott, 22, and another offender were wearing masks when they broke into a flat and attacked three occupants in June 2021.

Croskery was given 27 months in jail while Waggott was sentenced to 22 months.

Stephen Kerr, 24, was the driver and was given a combination order of 60 hours' community service and two years’ probation.

Judge Gordon Kerr, KC, divided the terms for the other two convicted equally between prison and licence.

The attack took place about 1am on June 2, 2021, when the three men entered a flat at Lawrence Street.

They walked into the kitchen of the flat and smashed items, shouting, "You are Muslims, why are you here?" and, "Go back to your homes."

One of the residents was punched in the head and kicked when he asked the intruders what they wanted. Another was left with broken teeth and a cut lip.

A neighbour who went to the flat was also assaulted by the masked gang.

Initial reports on the night said the three intruders were armed with a knife and what appeared to be a gun. The court was told that despite the reports, no weapons were used in the attack.

Police said they hoped the sentencing "sends out a clear message to anyone who thinks they can get away with this type of crime".

“We will work tirelessly to bring offenders before the courts so that that victims receive the justice they deserve," the force said.

Claire Hanna, Social Democratic and Labour Party MP for Belfast South, said extremists were posting racist bills in her diverse constituency.

"In my diverse and shared Belfast South constituency, we are battling extremism at the moment, in the form of a rash of menacing and racist posters about foreigners and housing," Ms Hanna told the Commons on Thursday.

Michael Gove, the UK Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Minister, condemned the attack. "We all deprecate the regrettable incidents of prejudice on the streets of south Belfast," he said.

Croskery and Waggott pleaded guilty to charges of attempted intimidation, burglary with intent to do unlawful damage and three counts of assault. One of the victims said the attack “affected him deeply”.

A second man spoke of the trauma he suffered while the third victim said his “spirit was crushed” by what happened and he has since moved Scotland.

Judge Kerr said: “For whatever reason, these two defendants decided that one of the persons in the house may have been involved in some criminal activity and both decided they would become vigilantes.

“That in itself is a factor which is serious. In any case, nobody has the right to try and take the law into their own hands. Comments were made to these people inside the premises that were made both to their religion and to their ethnicity. Those are serious aggravating features, in my view."

Updated: March 15, 2024, 4:11 AM