A brother and sister who tormented two groups of Eastern European residents in Lynn have been warned they probably would have been jailed if they were adults.
The 12-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were each given 12 month referral orders when they appeared at the town’s youth court on Tuesday.
They were both convicted of two charges of harassment following a three-day trial last month.
Passing sentence, presiding magistrate Michael Gooderson told them: “These offences are very serious and they do cross the custody threshold.
“Were you over the age of 18, you are likely to have been going to prison.”
The court heard that the siblings had repeatedly abused, threatened and harassed two separate groups of Latvian and Lithuanian nationals, who live near to them, in the town between May and September last year.
The girl had also admitted two counts of racially or religiously aggravated harassment, committed in August last year and October this year respectively, at an earlier hearing.
Fraser Harold, prosecuting, said they had verbally abused the groups in their own languages of Lithuanian and Russian, as well as in English.
In one incident, the boy rode his bike directly at the victims, only swerving to avoid them at the last moment.
In other cases, the girl repeatedly referred to “foreigners”, saying on one occasion: “Go away from our country”, and threatened to attack them if she ended up appearing in court.
One of their victims said of the girl: “I don’t know where she gets her hatred from.”
Mr Harold added that the family were previously known to the authorities and had been evicted from a former address for anti-social behaviour.
Ruth Johnson, mitigating, suggested that the children had been influenced by the attitudes of their parents.
But she stressed that all parties were keen to work to improve the situation and the parents were trying to demonstrate a more responsible attitude.
She added that the boy’s behaviour had improved significantly since he began working with the area’s youth offending team, while the girl was now attending college and had made friends with a Russian student.
Miss Johnson described the case as one of “racial ignorance” rather than hatred and argued that the problems faced by the family would be exacerbated if a more serious sentence was imposed.
And the children’s mother also called for the bench to follow the youth offending team’s recommendation of referral orders.
She told the court: “I have kept them in for 14 months and I daren’t let them back out on the street until they have had some kind of help to put them in the right place.
“We all live in the community, so they’ve got to live with different people.”
As well as the referral orders, the siblings were each given 12 month restraining orders barring them from going to their victims’ home addresses.
During the hearing, the boy also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of criminal damage, for which he was ordered to pay £50 compensation. Both were told to pay £25 costs.
Miss Johnson said it was “disappointing” to hear of the latest offence following the boy’s recent progress.