Student protester jailed for throwing fire extinguisher
- 11 January 2011
- From the section London
A student who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of a central London building during the student fees protests has been jailed.
Edward Woollard, 18, from Hampshire, was among protesters who broke into the Tory party headquarters and emerged on the roof on 10 November.
He was jailed for two years and eight months after admitting at an earlier hearing to committing violent disorder.
Police said his actions "could have resulted in catastrophic injury".
The student, who hoped to be the first member of his family to go on to higher education, was filmed throwing an empty metal fire extinguisher from the seventh-floor of 30 Millbank as hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard below.
The canister narrowly missed a line of police officers attempting to protect the looted and vandalised building from further damage on a day when 66 people were arrested.
The Brockenhurst College sixth-form student later went with his mother to a police station and admitted to throwing the extinguisher after footage of the incident was shown on television.
Woollard, from Dibden Purlieu, in the New Forest, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court.
Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC told the student the public had a right to protection from violence.
"It is deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing, for a court to have sentence a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody," the judge said.
"But the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can.
"This means sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way that an offence of this seriousness will not be tolerated."
He added it was "exceedingly fortunate that your action did not result in death or very serious injury either to a police officer or a fellow protester".
The judge praised Woollard's mother, Tania Garwood, saying he was taking into account her "extraordinary and courageous conduct" in persuading him to give himself up.
In a police statement read to the court, Woollard apologised for his actions, saying: "When I was told I had potentially endangered people, I felt sick.
"I was absolutely not intending that anyone in any way would be hurt."
His barrister, Hossein Zahir, said Woollard acted in a "moment of madness" and the offence had "jeopardised his future and prospects".
In a statement, Brockenhurst College said: "The college views what occurred as extremely serious and Edward Woollard has been on permanent exclusion since the incident."
Woollard was told that he would serve at least half of his sentence for violent disorder in a young offenders institution.
Cdr Bob Broadhurst, the Metropolitan Police's head of public order, said the sentence was "a significant period of imprisonment" which would have "a significant impact" on Wollard's future.
"I would ask those intent on causing violence and undermining those committed to peaceful protest to reflect on today's outcome."