A lot may have changed in 2020 but, as ever, Hertfordshire’s courts have been busy locking up some of the most dangerous criminals in the county.
While the pandemic has created an unprecedented backlog in the court system, it hasn’t stopped Hertfordshire judges from putting some of the most menacing criminals behind bars.
From Callum Scott – who HertsLive fought hard to publicly name – to historic sexual abuse cases, it’s been a packed year for the county’s judicial system.
Below are eight of the worst criminals that were locked up in 2020.
Scott was a teenage paedophile who filmed himself raping an 18-month-old baby just weeks before he stalked a schoolgirl and sexually abused her in an alleyway.
Scott was handed into police by his own grandmother in the aftermath of his unprovoked attack on the 11-year-old schoolgirl in Letchworth.
But as the investigation progressed further, the horrific and disturbing nature of his offending became clear.
As police examined the teenager’s devices they discovered a hoard of child sexual abuse images – both real and animated – that Scott had used to fulfil his dark desires.
In May, Judge Grey took the unusual step of issuing an extended sentence, meaning that Scott will spend a considerable amount of time on licence when he is eventually released from prison.
Scott was sentenced to a maximum of eight years and five months of immediate prison time. He began his sentence in a Young Offenders’ Institute before moving to an adult prison when he turned 18.
He will serve two-thirds of the immediate prison time before a parole board will consider whether it is safe to release him.
If he is released, he will serve the rest of that sentence on licence before he is subject to a further extended licence period of eight years.
Judge Grey also ordered that his electronic devices be seized and placed Scott under a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
He also issued a restraining order stopping Scott from contacting either of his victims.
You can read the full report of his court case, and HertsLive’s successful attempt in naming the then-17-year-old, here.
Tarkan Agca, 24, of Crusader Way, Watford, was jailed for 16 years in January, with five of those years to be served on licence.
He was categorised as a dangerous offender, which will help further protect the public by putting in place strict guidelines around his eventual parole and management upon release.
He was also banned from driving for three years upon his release and his vehicle, a silver BMW, will now be destroyed.
Mr Andrzej Szaruta was driving his silver Mercedes, from his home in Bridgewater, Somerset, to London.
On June 21, 2019, the family were on the way to visit Mr Szaruta’s son when a silver BMW began tailgating him for some time.
The driver of the BMW, Tarkan Agca, was following him along the eastbound carriageway of the A303.
At around 4.45pm, both cars pulled over on the slip road exit for Solstice Park near Amesbury and the dad got out of his car and walked towards the BMW to speak to the driver.
It was at this point that Agca, of Crusader Way, Watford, accelerated into him, hitting Mr Szaruta and causing fatal injuries.
He then fled the scene and sped along the eastbound carriageway.
The 63-year-old was rushed to hospital via air ambulance, and despite the best efforts of the medical crews, he sadly died from his injuries two days later.
Agca was arrested in Watford the following day of the collision, and his car was later found abandoned in a nearby town.
You can read the full report here.
This man from Potters Bar was jailed for a string of historic sex offences.
The 84-year-old was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, February 7 after being found guilty, by a majority verdict on January 22, following a 10-day trial.
The court heard how Willis abused two victims from the mid-1960s, over a prolonged period of time when the victims were aged between five and 15-years-old.
In March 2017, detectives in the Met Police’s Child Abuse and Sexual Offences (CASO) unit began an investigation after one of the victims, a woman in her 50s, reported the incidents, which had taken place in her childhood.
Subsequent police enquiries revealed a further victim, now in her 30s, who was approached and willing to assist the police in the investigation.
Willis was then interviewed in September 2017 and he denied the allegations of sexual assault.
On July 5, 2019, he was charged with eight counts of indecent assault relating to girls under 16.
On August 30, 2019 he pleaded not guilty to all the offences at Southwark Crown Court but he was subsequently found guilty. He was found guilty of the following:
- Six counts of indecent assault of a child under 14 (aged between five and 13-years-old) against victim one.
- Two counts of indecent assault of a female under 16 (aged between 13 and 15-years-old) against a second victim.
- Willis was also issued with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) preventing him from having any unsupervised contact with people under 18 and he will be subject to Sex Offender Registration for life.
He was jailed for eight years after his conviction.
You can read the full story here.
Vye was jailed for 16 years after admitting to a string of horrific crimes against children.
The 55-year-old man of Odesy, Hertfordshire, was sentenced in June after confessing to crimes which included the sexual assault of a child under 13, and making indecent photographs of children.
He was arrested on October 22, 2019 in London after arranging to sexually abuse a young child, before a search carried out at his home found a large presence of indecent images of children.
The images confirmed that Vye had a long-standing interest in the sexual abuse of children, and Vye had distributed images to other offenders online.
There was also evidence recovered that linked Vye to the historic sexual abuse of a child who had been subjected to a period of abuse in Kent in 2009 and 2010.
At an earlier hearing in January, he pleaded guilty to:
- The attempted rape of a child under the age of 13
- Two counts of assault of child under 13 by penetration
- Sexual assault of a child under 13
- Arranging or facilitating the commission of child sex offence
- Distributing indecent photographs of child/children
- Making indecent photographs of children
- Possessing extreme pornographic images
- Possessing prohibited images of children
In addition to 16 years’ imprisonment, there is a further five years on extended licence. Vye will also be issued with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) which includes preventing him with associating with any child under the age of 18, and he will be subject to Sex Offender Registration for life.
You can read the full court report here.
A busy courtroom was shown Snapchat footage of the moment a violent teenager stabbed two men on a night out, leaving one of his victims ‘millimetres from death’.
The ‘unprovoked attack’, which saw an alleyway cordoned off by police, led to both men requiring surgery.
One of them still wakes up with nightmares from the event that nurses say could have easily killed him.
Jack Hubbard – of Hydean Way, Stevenage – was just 17 at the time he knifed the pair but has since turned 18.
He appeared in St Albans Crown Court on Friday, August 14 to learn his fate, with the courtroom shown Snapchat and Instagram footage of the attack taking place.
Sending Hubbard down, Judge Foster told him: “When you were just under 18 you committed these horrific offences.
“It seems to me you are a man completely out of control. It was an unprovoked attack.
“I’ve got to protect the public.”
Hubbard was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent, and he will serve at least two-thirds of that sentence before he is even considered for licence.
The usual standard is to serve a minimum of half of the custodial sentence but, such was the severity of the crime, Judge Foster told the court how he was left with little other option than to extend it.
Hubbard was also jailed for two years for causing GBH without intent and 12 months for possession of a knife, both of which will run concurrently with the more serious sentence.
You can read the full court report here.
A man left his younger cousin for dead in a field and burned his clothes in an attempt to destroy evidence.
Joel Gregory was found guilty of attempted murder and jailed for 14 years after he stabbed his 18-year-old cousin 27 times in the face and torso moments after telling her she was his favourite cousin.
At a sentencing hearing in August, Bethanie MacSweeney told the court how she ‘trusted’ her older cousin and is now having counselling to rebuild her life after the violent attack.
Gregory, 20, of no fixed address, arranged to meet his cousin at The Midland Pub in Hemel Hempstead on Tuesday, February 25 earlier this year.
The pair had been out for a drink but, before arriving at the bar, Gregory hid a knife down an alleyway. They both spent several hours in the bar before catching a taxi to Chambersbury Lane, on the edge of Bunker’s Park, just before midnight.
After getting out of the taxi, they began walking across the park while chatting when, without warning, Gregory began attacking his cousin with the 12-inch kitchen knife he had previously hidden.
He stabbed Bethanie 27 times, causing extensive injuries to her face and torso, and defence wounds to her hands.
He then put his hand over her mouth, causing her to fall unconscious, leaving Bethanie lying in the field before running back to his mother’s home in Leverstock Green, where he burned his clothes in a bid to conceal evidence.
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When Bethanie regained consciousness around 15 minutes later, she managed to get up and run towards a nearby house to ask for help. By this time she was bleeding heavily from her injuries and in great distress.
Gregory was arrested less than two hours after police were called that night before he was taken into custody and interviewed. He was later charged and remanded back into custody. He was then found guilty of attempted murder.
Once Gregory has served his custodial sentence, he will serve an extended licence period of four years.
Judge Andrew Bright told Gregory he would have to serve two-thirds of the custodial term before the parole board considers his release.
You can read the full story here.
Gregory Williams, 46, launched an unprovoked attack on his ex-partner and step-daughter, a court heard.
He subjected his partner and her teenage daughter to a frenzied knife attack in December last year, after an argument broke out over the pet dog.
He was jailed for more than 13 years after he attacked his step-daughter, who was then 18. She received nine stab wounds to her head and neck, and two stab wounds to her back.
His then partner, who tried to intervene to stop Williams harming her daughter, also received stab wounds to her head, arm and hands.
Fortunately, her younger daughter, aged 13, ran from the house to escape the violence and called police.
Williams left the home following the attack and drove off in his car before crashing on the M1. Officers found a note on him indicating he wanted respect from his partner’s daughter.
Williams was found guilty of two counts of Section 18 GBH in October following a nine-day trial. He also pleaded guilty to drink driving.
The full story can be found here.
Jude Smyth, 32, of York Way, Watford, was sentenced to six years and nine months after pleading guilty to rape and a section 20 GBH assault.
He will also remain on the sex offenders’ register for life.
The horrifying incident happened at an address in Bushey during the early hours of May 24 this year. Smyth had gone into the address to visit a woman and her friend, who later left.
When the woman asked him to leave he became aggressive, dragged her into the bathroom and sexually assaulted her.
He then locked her in and continued to assault her through the night before leaving.
The victim also sustained knife injuries to her hands as she tried to defend herself during the ordeal.
The next day she disclosed the incident to her friend and the police were called. An arrest was quickly made and Smyth was remanded into custody.
You can read the full report here.