A 16-year-old boy has been banned from West Sussex after puncturing the lungs of two teenagers and injuring another in a knife attack in Littlehampton town centre.
Kurtis Donat, from Durrington, avoided a custodial sentence after the incident on March 28, which saw Terminus Road turn into a major crime scene and left the two victims needing emergency treatment in hospital.
Donat can be named for the first time today after a judge lifted a reporting restriction preventing the teenager from being identified due to his age.
Judge Charles Kemp’s decision came after this newspaper argued the restriction should be lifted in light of the seriousness of the offences.
Judge Kemp said ‘the public interest in knowing not only the circumstances of this case but also the reason behind the sentence’ overrode Donat’s anonymity.
He sentenced Donat at Lewes Crown Court on Friday (September 7) to a youth rehabilitation order of 24 months, with various conditions such as going to live with his uncle in Hampshire, not returning to West Sussex, not contacting his victims for three years and a six-month curfew.
He said: “Young men, in particular those who carry knives, must understand the danger they pose and must appreciate the public revulsion of knife crime.”
The court heard how Donat, who was 15 at the time, had felt bullied and intimidated by his three victims over social media gossip regarding a girlfriend, so he armed himself with a knife to defend himself if he saw them.
That became reality on the day of the incident, when one of the victims, stood with a group which included his other victims, started ‘swaggering’ towards him.
Judge Kemp said: “He described an adrenaline rush of acting aggressively to a perceived threat. Reportedly, he bitterly regrets his actions.”
After the stabbings, Donat fled the scene and got on a train home. A firearms unit was called to his house, where officers found him sitting on his doorstep with three knives and a hammer - although there was no suggestion he was going to use them.
He did not answer officers’ questions about what happened, he was either silent or said ‘he was too frightened to talk about what had happened’, the court heard.
William England, defending Donat, said that while it might appear on paper that ‘this was a loonie running around cutting people up and he needs to be put in prison’, really he had been ‘systematically bullied and terrified’ online and via text message, underlining how ‘dangerous social media is around young people’.
He said: “He was sent months and months of abuse, threats, being outnumbered consistently, fearing he was going to be beaten to a pulp. At one point, he thought he was going to have his face smashed in with a brick.
“Perhaps not a once in a lifetime case, but there really are exceptional reasons to take an exceptional course.”
After being arrested and charged, Donat remained in detention for five-and-a-half months. Since then, the 6ft 3ins-tall youth had quit smoking cannabis, continued his studies and gained 20kg by taking up exercise, the court heard.
The two victims who were more seriously injured are expected to make a full recovery - although they will still bear ‘the physical and psychological scars’ of what happened, Judge Kemp said.
In a victim statement, the victim who was less badly injured said he ‘couldn’t sleep for some time’ after the incident. He said: “I was in shock, and some days I couldn’t even speak. I saw my mates at the hospital and that affected me. I feel wary when I’m in Littlehampton now.”
Donat was initially charged with two charges of grievous bodily harm with intent and one of attempted grievous bodily harm, but on August 2 he pleaded guilty to different charges of unlawful wounding, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The original charges will lie on the court file.
The youth rehabilitation order covered various topics such as conflict resolution, mental health and wellbeing, substance misuse, lifestyle and relationships.
He was also required to do a seven-day knife awareness course and was given a six-month curfew. For the first three months, he had to stay at his uncle’s house from 9pm to 6am, and if he complied with the conditions it would be reduced to weekends only for the rest of the curfew.
He was not ordered to pay any costs or a victim surcharge due to his age.
He would only be allowed to visit West Sussex with the permission of the probation service or youth offending team, the court heard.
If he breaches any of these conditions he would be resentenced for his crimes and may receive a custodial sentence.
Donat’s sentence was thanks to Emma Speer from the West Sussex Youth Offending Service, whose ‘outstanding’ report was enough to persuade Judge Kemp not to keep him in custody.
To Donat, he said: “You should be very grateful to her for the time and trouble she has taken on your behalf.”