Brawls erupted on the streets of Aldershot during two separate incidents in the early hours of November 10 last year when a group of men of Nepalese descent reacted with violence to claims of racial abuse.
During the fighting, which took place in Victoria Road, some of the group removed their belts and began whipping them against the ground and shop shutters.
Residents called the police after witnessing the incidents, in which a man suffered a broken hand, and five members of the group appeared at Aldershot Magistrates’ Court on March 6 to face charges of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause people to believe unlawful violence might be used against them.
Bhuwan Gurung, 23, brothers Hemant Gurung, 24, and Suman Gurung, 25, Cham Paija, 25, and Sailesh Rai, 19, all pleaded guilty, with Rai and Hemant Gurung admitting a second count relating to another fight with two other men.
James Burnham, prosecuting, said the violence began at around midnight.
“The defendants surrounded them [the other group], punched at them and chased them down the road,” he said. “They flailed belts and pulled hair. They continued to walk around whipping their belts on the floor until the police arrived.”
Two men, who came out of Yates’s bar shortly after, told police one of the defendants had knocked into them, and Mr Burnham described this as the ‘blue touch paper’ for the second round of fighting.
“Pushes turned into punches, sadly,” he said.
Racist insults are believed to have been used towards the defendants and they were said to have acted in self defence, waving their belts to ward off other attackers.
Emma Charlton, representing Bhuwan and Hemant Gurung, said Bhuwan, of Arrow Road in Farnborough, had never been in trouble with the police before and was likely to lose his job in IT as a result of the charge.
“One of the things that sparked it is a torrent of racist abuse,” she said. “Clearly, something in particular has provoked them to do something out of character. They haven’t gone out looking for trouble. There has been provocation and they responded.”
She said Hemant, of St George’s Road in Aldershot, who works at Fleet Services, admitted he ‘flipped out’.
Ruth Cassidy, defending Suman Gurung, also of St George’s Road, said he was not a regular drinker as he worked evenings, but had got ‘merry’ while out with friends. He became involved when he heard his brother had been assaulted and saw him spitting blood.
Restaurant worker Paija, of Brighton Road, Aldershot, said he stepped outside to find the fighting under way.
Rai, of Victoria Road in Aldershot, was said to have been the least drunk of the group and had been trying to keep the peace. A military student, he works for Subway but plans to join the Army.
Chairman of the bench, Paul Bryson, said the defendants had ‘isolated’ their victims and used ‘group action’. He ordered Bhuwan Gurung, Hemant Gurung and Suman Gurung to complete 60 hours of unpaid work, and Paija and Rai to complete 70 hours. They must all pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
Mr Bryson said: “You’ve had some provocation due to the attitude of some people who live in this area. But you are old enough to walk away from people who make stupid comments. So, in future, please walk away and don’t engage in fights in the street. We don’t like it.”