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Wesley Gray, Beniha Laing, Jailed For 64 Years Over Police Gun Attack

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BIRMINGHAM RIOTS
Birmingham suffered serious unrest in August 2011 | PA

Two men have been handed lengthy jail sentences after being found guilty of taking part in a pre-planned gun attack on police officers during the summer riots last year.

Wesley Gray, 27, and Beniha Laing, 29, were linked to the shooting in the Aston area of Birmingham by a pistol and a revolver seized by police two months later, the city's Crown Court heard.

Gray and Laing both of no fixed abode, were found guilty of riot, possession of firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of firearms found in their possession on later occasion which was subsequently connected to the riot and reckless arson, West Midlands Police said.

Laing was sentenced to 35 years in prison and Gray was handed a 29-year term, the force said.

Over the last three weeks, Birmingham Crown Court heard how the men, who were part of a larger group of people and have been linked to a criminal gang, planned and orchestrated an attack on police on the ground as well as the force's helicopter at the height of the disorder in the city when they knew that police resources were stretched.

West Midlands Police said officers were lured to The Bartons Arms pub on the night of Tuesday 9 August at the same time that other areas of Birmingham and the region were experiencing pockets of disorder.

The pub was broken into, ransacked and spirits and petrol were used to set fire to the building. The furniture from the pub was then used to barricade the main High Street. The group, all wearing black clothing and masks, were intent on causing serious disorder and impacting on local people and emergency services.

Local CCTV showed the group also attempting to break into nearby entertainment venue 'The Drum'. The footage shows them hammering through glass in an attempt to obtain more furniture to block the roads.

A police unit of unarmed officers trained to deal with disorder arrived and attempted to disperse the crowd but was confronted by the group who threw missiles and goaded them.

Some of the group then discharged at least 12 shots, using a number of different firearms in the direction of the officers, police said.

The force's helicopter was deployed to film the disorder and help officers on the ground, the subsequent footage showed the group as it moved across Aston.

On two occasions individuals within the group appeared to take aim and shoot at the helicopter.

The incident ended when firearms officers attended the scene and a number of arrests took place.

Six men were found guilty and given sentences ranging from 12 to 30 years in June this year.

Police said that on 7 October last year, a Fegarmy 9mm pistol and ammunition was found at the address of Laing's friend Janine Francis, 25, following a planned police operation.

The firearm was examined revealing that it was one of the weapons used on the evening of 9 August and also Gray's DNA was found on the gun.

A second firearm was seized on 19 October when Laing was handed a bag by Nadeen Banbury, 25, near to Burlington Street.

The bag contained a St Etienne revolver and ammunition which was also identified as one of the other weapons used that August night.

The two women - Francis and Banbury - were today found guilty of possession of a weapon and ammunition, police said.

Banbury was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence and Francis sentenced to five years for possession of a weapon and ammunition.

Detective Inspector Andy Bannister, the lead investigator, said following the verdicts: "Despite the culmination of this trial, the work does not stop here. We are continuing to look at using different methods of intervention to address the behaviour of other individuals who were part of that group on that August night."