A cyclist thug who pulled out a huge ‘zombie knife’ and began smashing a car window in a terrifying road rage row was today spared jail, sparking fury.
Shocking dashcam footage showed Joshua Gardner, 18, brandishing the enormous blade on a busy south London road before repeatedly hitting at the car and threatening its 19-year-old driver, who got out and ran away.
But an Old Bailey judge told Gardner he would only be given a suspended sentence because he carried the knife following a ten-day kidnap ordeal in which he was held at gunpoint.
People took to Twitter to vent their anger that a cyclist thug who wielded a zombie knife on a driver was today spared jail
Gardner, who had a previous conviction for attempting to rob a schoolboy of his mobile and wallet at knifepoint, was convicted of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent after an Old Bailey trial.
Defending Gardner, Mark Stevens said he had been the victim of a kidnapping four days before the offence, which had prompted his mother to install a panic button inside the family home.
Judge Anuja Dhir QC said: ‘There was an incident of kidnapping between about March 26 and April 2, so a relatively short period of time before you committed this offence.
‘You were bundled into a car, and threatened with a gun because of a drug debt that a friend of yours had run up.
‘You were then taken to a place referred to as a trap house for ten days and you were made to sell drugs to work off the debt.’
The kidnapping, said to be by a gang of men in their 20s, ‘reduced your culpability’, she told Gardner.
Judge Dhir passed a sentence of two years in jail suspended for two years after hearing of his kidnap ordeal and reading a letter from his mother.
Gardner will have to carry out 150 hours unpaid work and be tagged and subject to a dawn to dusk curfew.
Joshua Gardner (pictured in an undated police mug shot) pulled out a huge knife and began smashing at a car during a frenzied attack in Croydon on May 30 this year
But the decision sparked fury, with serving Greater Manchester Police officer ‘Sgt K’ tweeting that he had been left ‘speechless’.
Cliff Baxter said: ‘The sentencing here does nothing, nothing to act as a deterrent to those who carry and use knives.’
‘And they wonder why there is so much crime,’ another Twitter user wrote.
Others joined the derision, saying the soft sentence could act as an encouragement to other criminals.
‘Well he won’t do that again,’ Sgt Harry Tangy tweeted in a sarcastic tone.
Another account, Limetree Maintenance, wrote: ‘And that right there is what is wrong with the UK at the minute. No wonder gang crime is so high… A slap on the wrist and maybe a fine. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.’
Detective Constable Aaron Champion said: ‘The footage that was circulated widely in the media, which showed Gardner waving around a ‘zombie’ style knife understandably shocked both the communities of Croydon and the wider public.
‘He had decided that day for whatever reason that he would attack this man and brazenly pulled out this knife in front of horrified members of the public, some of whom had finished work or had collected their children from school.
‘His conviction and sentence send out the message that the police will not tolerate the mind-set Gardner seems to have adopted – that the casual use of a knife is justified to settle even minor differences.’
The thug tried to get in the car using the passenger side door in the May attack, but found it was locked
Defence lawyer Mr Stevens told the court his client was ‘thoroughly ashamed’ of himself and for the ‘pain’ he had put his family through.
‘His mother is really looking to move away from the area. It is a completely different borough,’ he said.
‘He was 17 at the time and I would urge the court to sentence him as if he were a 17-year-old.
Gardner, of Croydon, was convicted of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent but admitted affray and possession of an offensive weapon.
He claimed he was forced to sell drugs for ten days during the incident and Judge Anuja Dhir accepted this was true.
Gardner then lashed out at the car and began smashing its window with the enormous knife
Judge Dhir told Gardner: ‘It was a frightening incident. You attacked a car in a threatening menacing way. The incident was caught on camera and the footage was played to the jury.
‘It showed the extent of the violence you used. The film shows you were cycling at the time along London Road when the driver of the car pulled out and clipped your bike.
‘You were then seen to attack his car with your feet, your fists and with the Zombie knife you produced from your waistband.
‘You were seen to attack first the driver’s window. You then tried to open the back passenger door.
‘You then swiftly moved to the other side of the car, smashing the front passenger window and putting your hand inside.
The footage of the incident was watched by more than 100,000 people and Croydon North MP Steve Reed wrote to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to call for more to be done to tackle the ‘rapid escalation’ in knife crime.
The road rage incident also put Gardner in breach of a youth rehabilitation order put in place after his earlier attempted robbery.