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Cohan Semple sentenced for Bury St Edmunds flour and egg attack

An 18-year-old man who took part in a flour and eggs attack on a vulnerable woman in Bury St Edmunds was sentenced this week.

Cohan Semple, of Willcox Avenue, Bury, appeared at Ipswich Magistrates' Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to using threatening, abusive or insulting words of behaviour with intent to cause another harassment, alarm or distress at a previous hearing in November.

The court heard that on July 27, Semple, who turned 18 in October, and a friend who cannot be named for legal reasons walked from West Suffolk College to a park on St Olaves Road in the town to meet a group of friends and came across a vulnerable woman on a bench.

The image that sparked a national outcry - a woman on a bench pelted with flour and eggs by a group of teenage boys in Bury St Edmunds. (5798821)
The image that sparked a national outcry - a woman on a bench pelted with flour and eggs by a group of teenage boys in Bury St Edmunds. (5798821)

"She said they approached her and asked her if she wanted to buy drugs. They spat on her a few times and then some of them disappeared and they returned with eggs and flour and they threw these items over her," said Lucy Miller, prosecuting.

Semple then took a picture of four boys posing with the 49-year-old victim, which was later posted to Facebook and shared worldwide.

Duncan Gallagher, representing Semple, described the incident as 'a nasty piece of work all round'.

About Semple, he said: "He becomes the only one named and that's something I ask you to consider. He and his family have been subject to threats and doorstepping.

"He got caught up in this mean-spirited offence but nonetheless he has done what he can to turn himself around."

He added: "He went to see his doctor days before this happened. He went to seek help before this happened. He was a troubled boy at the time."

The court also heard that Semple lost his job and college place as a result of the incident.

He was handed a one-year community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days. He was also ordered to pay £100 in compensation, £85 victim surcharge and £85 in court costs.

On sentencing, presiding magistrate Michael Cadman said: "We've taken into account first your guilty plea on the first opportunity and that you were a youth when this offence was committed and if you had been charged three days earlier, you would have been dealt with as a youth.

"We have also taken into account that you were not the ring leader or the prime mover in this offence and that you have spent a number of weeks on a curfew."

He added: "If you don't comply with the terms of the community order and you don't turn up for appointments and you don't cooperate with that order in any shape or form, you will be brought back to court and it might be that that which you have avoided today in not going to prison could be a very strong possibility."

Four other teenagers, aged 17, 16 and two aged 15, also pleaded guilty to the offence in November and were sentenced in the youth court.

They were each handed a 12-month referral order, ordered to pay the victim £100 in compensation, £20 victim surcharge and £85 in costs.

Another 17-year-old boy pleaded not guilty to the offence and is set to appear at the youth court in February for trial.

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