Low IQ spares man from jail after ‘disgraceful’ Houghton Regis fight


A judge took an “exceptional course” with a young man convicted of violent disorder after hearing about his severe learning difficulties.

Shaun Burden, 22, appeared at Luton Crown Court today as a pre-sentence detailed his learning difficulties and a very low IQ score of 46 – well below the normal range.

Judge Lynn Tayton QC sentenced Burden to a community order and said his culpabality was significantly reduced by the findings.

Burden, of Maidenbower Avenue in Dunstable, was previously convicted of taking part in a violent street fight in Houghton Regis on June 25 last year.

His father and brother, John Burden Snr, 49, and John Burden Jnr, 26, as well as Michael Searle, 24, and Ben Barker, 22, were all sentenced for their part in the disorder on January 22.

But sentencing was held back for Shaun Burden in order for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

Stuart Sprawson, defending, said: “One gets the impression from the report, from the psychologist and from probation, this is a young man who knows no different from being under his father’s care. He’s constantly lived under a father whose influence is perhaps not the best.

“His day is 24 hours in a cell ... He’s already been the subject of theft while he’s there.”

Mr Sprawson added that the reports showed an extremely low level of function and an over dependency on his father.

He went on: “I have no doubt the three of them were together, the lead really was his father... That’s why he has the nunchuks in his possession.”

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Lynn Tayton QC highlighted the seriousness of the case.

She said: “You were involved with your father and brother and others in a violent disorder in the middle of Houghton Regis on June 25.

“It’s not entirely clear to me what started this violence ... what was, in any view, a disgraceful incident.

“You and your father and brother came to the scene armed but you were outnumbered when a group of other people chased you.”

Judge Tayton than drew attention to the pre-sentence and psychologist’s reports as well as letters from Burden’s family and a friend.

In them, it emerged Burden was diagnosed with learning difficulties at 11 and attended Weatherfield Academy special school. Letters from his family indicated he needed help with day to day tasks.

Judge Tayton said: “Given these factors, it’s of considerable concern that members of your family allowed you to become involved in this incident.

“It seems to me that your culpability is significantly reduced.”

Burden was sentenced to a community order for 18 months, with a 12 month curfew and rehabilitation activity for 40 days, co-operating with the probation service.

An 18 month restraining order banning him from contacting Michael Searle, Ben Barker, Joseph Searle and Taylor Benford and also from entering Recreation Road or Hinton Walk was imposed.

The judge was told that a thinking skills course would not be suitable due to Burden’s limited capabilities.

Lastly, Judge Tayton said: “I’ve taken a very unusual course and I make it clear it’s because of the learning difficulties outlined to me.

“If you come back again, don’t expect the court to do the same thing.”