A teenager has been jailed for seven years today (Friday) after being found guilty of killing Hailsham dad Darren Croxton.
The 17-year-old was convicted of manslaughter by members of the jury who spent three days considering whether the teenager and his friend 19-year-old Stuart Johnson were guilty of murder.
They delivered their verdict shortly before 3pm on Friday afternoon and several members of the jury were in tears as their decision was read to the court. Mr Johnson was cleared of murder and manslaughter and allowed to walk free.
Mr Croxton’s family were in court for the verdict and were visibly upset at the decision. As the teenager was sentenced one of Mr Croxton’s cousins shouted out the sentence wasn’t long enough.
Newspapers have been unable to name the teenager during the five week trial because of his age and an application to the judge to lift reporting restrictions so his name and photograph could be published was turned down.
The teenager and Mr Johnson were charged with murder shortly after 25-year-old Mr Croxton died when he was stabbed during at a pre-arranged fight in Hailsham in January last year. They both denied murder.
The 17-year-old was sentenced immediately after the verdict by Mr Justice Singh who told him, “You must have had a knife with you and you chose to stab Darren Croxton. It isn’t clear what led you to stab him and it seems to me it was a tragic consequence but not intended by you that the femoral artery was severed on that day.”
Mr Justice Singh said the youth had been in detention since January 2012 so would be out on licence in about two and a half years.
Mr Croxton, a father of two, died after a pre-arranged fight between two rival groups of people in a wooded area near the Diplocks estate in Hailsham on January 22 last year.
The court heard how a knife wound to his left thigh had severed a femoral artery, causing fatal haemorrhaging and cardiac arrest. He was rushed to hospital but died the followinng morning.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley who led the investigation said, “This has been a tragic set of events and the untimely death of Darren has had a significant impact on his family, relatives and the local Hailsham community. I hope that today’s verdict in which one of the defendants has been found guilty will help to give all those who knew and loved Darren some form of closure.
“Sussex Police carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Darren’s death and we respect the judgement of the court following the acquittal of Stuart Johnson.
“The defendant is very young and I hope that having been found guilty of such a serious offence and facing a prison term, it will give him cause to reflect on the outcome of his devastating actions on the night Darren was fatally injured. By fleeing the scene of the crime and not accepting the role he played in Darren’s death he has put Darren’s family through the stressful and traumatic process of a murder trial. I also hope his conviction will serve as a warning to other teenagers who decide to carry and use knives.”
Wealden Neighbourhood Inspector Tony Wakefield said, “Our thoughts are with Darren’s family, his friends and the local community directly affected by his death. We will continue to work with the Hailsham community and would urge anyone who has concerns to please speak to local officers.”