FOUR young friends who battered a teenager as part of a posh 'turf war' between two Oxfordshire towns were spared jail after their lawyers told a judge they would not know how they would cope in prison.

Oxford Crown Court heard how Kieran Clifton had dragged the 17-year-old victim out of his car in March last year and then, with a group including Se Smith, Daniel Clifford and Joshua Campbell, attacked him while screaming 'you're going to be unrecognisable after this' and 'do you want me to stab you?'

Clifton, a 19-year-old carpenter, Smith, 18, Clifford, 22, and Campbell, a self-employed butcher aged 19, all arrived in court in smart shirts and listened as four lawyers battled to keep them out of jail.

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The victim was not known to his attackers but they recognised him as being one of the 'Thame lot' and they were told, during a day of heavy drinking in their local pub the Fat Fox, that he was due to arrive on their turf at the Co-Op in Watlington.

Oxford Mail:

Clifton harboured his own private motives for the attack, the judge was told, because he believed his four-year relationship with his first 'proper' girlfriend had been broken up because of the victim. He had rushed to his suspected love rival's car as it rolled into the Co-Op car park and screamed: "Get out of the f***ing car, I am going to smash your head in."

Oxford Mail:

Kieran Clifton. Picture: INS

Jane Brady, defending Clifton, who had led the assault and admitted a charge of causing actual bodily harm, said: "It is fair to say he is absolutely terrified of going inside.

"His mother would have concerns about her son's ability to cope in such an environment."

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Judge Nigel Daly was told the other three men, who all admitted affray, had no previous convictions.

Their defence lawyers also gave a list of examples which they said showed that their clients had tried to mend their ways since the savage attack.

Oxford Mail:

Joshua Campbell. Picture: INS

Sean Smith, defending Clifford, claimed his client had a substance abuse problem and had been spending £400 a week on cocaine and cannabis, but pointed out that Clifford had been abstinent for the previous two weeks before the sentencing hearing.

An advocate for Campbell, who had already been convicted of assaulting two police officers later in the same night, asked Judge Daly not to impose a rehabilitation requirement on his client, saying: "He feels rehabilitated already."

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Kellie Enever, representing Smith, said: "This is a young man who now, without a shadow of a doubt, looking back on that night, absolutely regrets the decisions that were taken and what unfolded."

Judge Daly complained to the lawyers that, apart from Clifton, the other three defendants had not accepted doing anything more than shouting at their victim and the court had been told there were possibly up to eight people involved in the incident.

Oxford Mail:

Se Smith. Picture: INS

The judge instructing the four to stand up in court and told them: "This is a group incident on a single young man who was totally unable to protect himself.

"He was dragged from a car, kicked and punched and suffered significant injury - bruising, damage to his teeth, needed to be on crutches for a week.

"For some reason, this young man was deliberately targeted. Perhaps because he came from Thame and you four came from Watlington and there had been bad blood between the two factions."

Oxford Mail:

Daniel Clifford. Picture: INS

The four defendants had been downing Amaretto-based spirits at the Fat Fox and Judge Daly said to Clifton: "You accepted being significantly involved in violence, you played a leading role in what went on. You have not accepted that you have any issues with drinking. Drink, in my view, played a significant part.

"Drinking Coca Cola and Amaretto? I'm surprised you were not sick."

Oxford Mail:

The judge gave Clifton, of Chapel Lane, Chalgrove, a 12-month sentence but suspended it for 12 months, with a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement, unpaid work of 160 hours and ordered him to pay £750 compensation.

Clifford, of Chiltern Gardens, Watlington, and Campbell, who lived on a farm in Radnage, were both sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement, 120 hours unpaid work and £750 compensation.

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Smith, of Church Street, Watlington, who was aged 17 years at the time of the attack, was sentenced to eight months, suspended for 12 months and given 100 hours unpaid work. He was also made subject to a curfew for three months and ordered to pay £750 compensation.

Judge Daly told them all: "You better mend your ways. It has been 18 months since this has happened. It would appear that each of you stands to have a good chance at rehabilitation.

"This has been your last chance. Appear before me again and you know exactly where you're going."