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Friday, 29 May 2015

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Extra police patrols on late trains after attack

FEARS have been raised over train safety after six thugs were jailed for a savage attack on a group of Haydon Bridge passengers.

The male victims were travelling home after celebrating a friend’s birthday in Newcastle when they were kicked and punched by a gang of Carlisle men during an unprovoked attack two years ago.

At Newcastle Crown Court last Friday, Barrie Bingham (25), John Reginald Eplet (24), Andrew Hull (24), Ryan Daniel McSaphney (23), Ross Neville (22) and Ryan James Watterson (21) pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Watterson received a 27-month sentence, while Eplett was handed a 20-month sentence. Bingham, Neville and McSaphney were ordered to serve 18 months, and Hull was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The attack happened as the 8.15pm Newcastle to Carlisle train left Hexham station on Sunday, August 28, 2011.

Eplett ran at one of the victims, hitting him in the face, then four of the gang joined in the attack. A glass bottle was used to strike one of the other victims on the head.

The gang then surrounded the Haydon Bridge men, violently attacking the group, kicking and punching them. Many passengers fled to another carriage during the 10-minute ordeal.

Train staff alerted British Transport Police, and officers attended Haydon Bridge station where Bingham, Hull and McSaphney were arrested. The three other attackers were later identified as Eplett, Neville and Watterson.

One of the victims was taken to hospital with head injuries which required stitches as a result of the bottle attack.

Detective Inspector Stuart Mellish, of British Transport Police’s criminal investigation department, said: “This was an abhorrent attack on a group of men who were simply making their way home from a day of celebrations.

“The victims did not provoke any kind of violence from these thugs, which led many other passengers on board the train to fear for their own safety.

“Alcohol was clearly a factor for this group’s violent actions and this will simply not be tolerated by police.”

Extra patrols have now been put in place by British Transport Police on late night services.

Det. Insp. Mellish said: “This was an isolated incident. It was very severe and attacks like this are few and far between. However, safety is of paramount importance and we will make sure that anyone carrying out inappropriate or violent behaviour will be brought to justice.”

Det. Insp. Mellish said he understood that some train services on the Tyne Valley line were quiet and passengers may be concerned about their welfare.

He added: “There are help buttons on trains. If passengers are in any way suspicious, they can alert train staff.

“There is safety in numbers. I would always recommend that, where possible, people choose a busy carriage over one that is deserted.”

Malcolm Chainey, chairman of the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group, said low-level disorder remains a concern for many passengers.

He explained: “It is intimidating when people get on board a train after they have been drinking. This can be the case with large groups.

“The British Transport Police does not allow people to bring alcohol onto the last train on a Saturday night from Newcastle to Carlisle, but if people have been drinking, there can still be problems.

“People are banned from pubs if they have too much drink. If they were not allowed on a train, and faced with paying a hefty taxi fare, they might think about behaving more appropriately.”