The harrowing experiences of a Wigan community terrorised by youth gangs were last week revealed as part of a court trial.
The proceedings placed the issue of anti-social behaviour and its impact on borough families firmly under the spotlight.
I’ve had my windows smashed, my car keyed along one side. Shouting threats through the letter box. It’s just made my life a complete miseryPaul King
Unfortunately, the accounts given to the court from residents of Church Drive in Orrell will not be alien to folk who live in other areas of the borough blighted by the same disgusting foe.
Paul King, a former Church Drive resident, was last week cleared of using threatening behaviour toward police officers after he had called 999 to deal with marauding youths.
He had previously admitted one charge from the same evening in August last year of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place - a baseball bat - and will be sentenced later this month.
It was revealed during the trial Mr King had been targeted by gangs ever since he questioned one youth who had flicked a lit cigarette into the hair of an elderly lady outside a local shop.
The bravery to question this despicable act is perhaps something most community-minded residents would hope to possess when faced with a similar situation.
The description of what Mr King, and his neighbours, had to endure will send shivers down the spine of just as many.
One witness, Karen Boyle, told the court she had been woken on the night of Mr King’s altercation with the police by a loud noise on the street.
“There must have been about 16 lads ... I saw them and then I saw something orange flying past,” she explained.
“They were pushing a traffic cone over Paul’s car, playing ice hockey with it.”
It was this act that triggered the altercation upon which the court case was focused on but this was not an isolated incident.
Ms Boyle added she had witnessed the gangs on previous occasions using Mr King’s gateposts as goalposts with his car in the middle of this makeshift “goal.”
She further explained: “They would damage vehicles and property, it was leaving people distraught because things were being ruined; throwing bricks at windows.”
When asked by Mr King’s defence counsel whether the street was a nice place to live, Ms Boyle responded: “No, not at all.”
Brian Whiteside, another defence witness, told the court his first experience of anti-social behaviour on Church Drive came when teenagers were kicking a football at his window.
He said: “My partner took the ball off them as our parents would have done back in the day.”
The response from the youths was to threaten to “burn the house down”.
He also recalled the gangs on a previous occasions telling Mr King “we’re going to burn your house down you *******.” Mr Whiteside also described the traffic cone game.
“They were screaming, they were shouting abuse, they had the cone and they were sliding it across the top of the car,” he said.
He finished his stint in the witness box by stating: “The trouble is still going on.”
Mr King, who took to the stand as one of his own defence witnesses, fought back tears several times as he described how he had been targeted.
Out of dozens, maybe hundreds, of calls to the police’s 101 non-emergency number, only twice had he dialled 999; once on that night when the youths entered his house and once previously when they had threatened to pour petrol through his letterbox and set his house ablaze.
Recalling the time he confronted the youth over the cigarette incident, he told the court: “I said that was unacceptable and asked how would you feel if that was your mother, sister or grandmother?
“I got abused and one of them must have seen where I lived and it has been non-stop.
“I’ve had my windows smashed, my car keyed along one side. Shouting threats through the letter box. It’s just made my life a complete misery.”
The trial at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court was fundamentally about the charges faced by Mr King. But it was set against a backdrop of a community feeling it had no-where to turn to combat ASB.
Mr King, the court was told, has now moved out of the area. That he has had to do this is an indictment of how bad things had become.