Father jailed for 16 years over acid attack on three-year-old son
Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman
A father has been jailed for plotting an acid attack on his three-year-old son during a bitter custody battle with the child's mother.
The parent was handed a 16-year sentence and five other defendants were jailed for between 12 and 14 years after being found guilty of the "shocking" acid attack.
They were all unanimously convicted by a jury of conspiring to throw sulphuric acid with intent to "burn, maim or disfigure" the boy in an attack inside a busy shop in July 2018. One person was found not guilty.
Judge Robert Juckes QC, sentencing, told them they had carried out a "monstrous" crime with "obviously strong acid", probably from a car battery.
A six-week trial at Worcester Crown Court was told that the youngster, who cannot be identified due to his age, suffered serious injuries to his face and arm at a Home Bargains store in the Tallow Hill area of Worcester.
In CCTV footage shown to the court, the boy can be seen with his brother looking at toy footballs when a man wearing a white t-shirt and holding something walks past the pair and squirts liquid at one of the children.
The victim can then be seen running away from the assailant and the jury were told he screamed "I hurt" over and over again while looking for his mother.
Other CCTV footage obtained by police revealed that the mother had been followed to the shop by a silver Vauxhall Vectra allegedly containing three of the men involved in the attack.
The Crown alleged that the father, aggrieved by his wife walking out on him in 2016, enlisted others to attack his son - in a bid to win more contact with the child by showing that his mother was unfit to care for him.
The incident in Home Bargains followed what prosecutors said was an "aborted attack" on the child earlier that month.
The boy is said to have made a "good recovery" in the months since the attack but doctors say it is too early to tell whether he will suffer permanent scarring as a result of his injuries.
Since the attack he has been living with his mother.
In a victim impact statement read to court by prosecution barrister Will Martin, she said if the father was released from jail she would be "in greater danger than before" because the father is "the kind of person that honour matters everything to."
She gave an example of a time she watched a YouTube video with the defendant, about a girl who was killed by her father.
She said: "While watching I commented 'that's impossible how can a father kill his daughter?'
"He said 'his daughter must have done something wrong - that's our culture. They call it honour killing. This is the way of our culture."'
She added: "This is what he believes."
Jurors deliberated for nine hours before convicting the father, from Wolverhampton but originally from Afghanistan, on Wednesday.
Jurors also convicted co-conspirators Adam Cech, Jan Dudi, Norbert Pulko, Jabar Paktia, and Saied Hussini of plotting to spray sulphuric acid on the boy with intent to cause harm.
A seventh defendant, Martina Badiova, was cleared of being part of the plan, by a majority verdict.
Supporters of Ms Badiova cheered and applauded in the public gallery as the foreman of the jury announced they had found the 23-year-old, of Newcombe Road in Handsworth, Birmingham, not guilty.
Nearly all those found guilty in connection with the attack had run what the trial judge described as "markedly cut-throat" defences.
From the first days of the Worcester Crown Court trial, tensions in the dock were plain.
When the father was giving evidence from the witness box, one of the other male defendants loudly and mockingly mimicked the 40-year-old's testimony, repeatedly saying "I never, I never".
The father, from Wolverhampton but originally from Afghanistan, for his part denied any wrongdoing or ever having even met Pulko.
Pulko scoffed and shook his head on hearing that denial and jurors were shown CCTV of the pair meeting in a pub car park hours before the attack, with the father "handing over acid" to his co-conspirator.
Later in the trial, Cech, who admitted throwing the substance, pointed the finger squarely at Pulko, claiming he had been threatened at gunpoint to carry out the attack.
After giving evidence, Cech smirked, smiled to himself and looked at the ceiling as he waited to be led back down to the court cells, away from the others.
As the jury convicted, in front of a public gallery packed with the defendants' family and friends, the father simply rubbed his jaw, while Cech, who had carried out the attack, put his head in his hands.