School ‘smashed up’ by Afghan veteran

AN AFGHAN veteran who smashed windows at a Ripon school while returning to base after a night out told a court he did not know what had caused him to ‘‘kick off.’’

Ryan John Willis, a Sapper with the Royal Engineers based at Claro Barracks in Ripon, appeared before Harrogate magistrates on Tuesday to plead guilty to causing £881.30 worth of damage to windows at Ripon Grammar School.

Prosecutor Sam Rogers said 21-year-old Willis had been walking along Clotherholme Road at about 2am on June 22 when he entered the school grounds and broke two panes of glass in the entrance door.

Police, who had been alerted by concerned callers reporting the sound of breaking glass at the grammar school, found Willis nearby with a cut hand. He told officers he had been ‘‘smashing the place up.’’

Miss Rogers said when it got light it was found that other windows had also been smashed and Willis, who needed hospital treatment for his injuries, had made a full admission of responsibility.

He had told police he had been out drinking with friends and had lost his temper. He had gone into a field to calm down but ‘‘it didn’t work and I kicked off.’’

In mitigation Helen Howard said Willis had ‘‘just flipped’’ but did not know why. She agreed with court chairman Graham Saunders that he was accumulating a record of offending and said Willis, who had seen active service in Afghanistan and could be sent back there next year, was receiving help from the Army for a mental disorder.

He was being treated by a psychiatric team at Catterick Garrison amid military concerns about ‘‘an escalation of offending.’’

Miss Howard said: ‘‘It seems to be a psychiatric issue, not somebody going down the wrong path.’’ And the Army, while dealing with the issue, would also impose its own disciplinary action for Willis’s latest offence.

The court heard psychiatrists would decided whether Willis could resume full military duties – at present he was being kept away from weapons – or would be deemed unfit for service.

Mr Saunders told Willis the court was persuaded that, as the Army was taking responsibility for underlying issues which caused him to behave the way he had at the grammar school, there was no need to involve the probation service.

Instead he would be hit with a fine of £200 together with costs of £85, a £15 victim surcharge and a compensation bill for £881.30.