A man washed a child’s mouth out with soap after the youngster told him to ‘fuck off’ and tried to kick an old man’s walking stick, a court heard.
Angry Ryan Birtwell, 23 spotted the six-year-old’s behaviour in a park near his home and confronted him.
Ryan had seen the boy kick an old man’s cane and told him to stop – but the youth told him to ‘fuck off’ and called him a ‘gay boy’, a court heard.
Ryan then walked into a nearby shop and bought a three pack of soap and pinned the boy down and stuck a bar in his mouth.
The boy told his family about the incident on April 11 in Washington, Sunderland, and they contacted police.
Ryan pleaded guilty to assault at Sunderland Magistrates Court and given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
Jason Smith, mitigating, said: “Ryan is walking along the road minding his own business.
He is a young man who is very affable.
“He sees the boy run across to an old gentleman with a stick and tries to kick the stick away.
“He remonstrates with him to which the boy – who the police, I have to say, accept that he is slightly out of control and perhaps not the best of young individuals – says to Ryan to f**k off.
“Ryan says to him to stop swearing and when he doesn’t he says back ‘stop swearing or I will wash your mouth with soap,’ something that used to happen in the good old days.
“He fully accepts in hindsight that that was not the best way to react. All Ryan was trying to do was teach the little boy some manners. Unfortunately, manners are in short supply nowadays.”
The court on Wednesday heard that a witness said Ryan, of Washington, had been called a “gay boy” by the youth.
The witness heard Ryan say he was going to buy some soap and “wash his mouth out with it”.
Prosecutor Glenda Beck said: “The injured party was playing in the park which is close to his home address. The defendant approached him and there was an exchange of words.
“The defendant went to a shop and returned with a bar of soap. He pinned the injured party down to the floor and pushed the bar of soap into his mouth.”
Speaking after the hearing the boy’s mum said: “Things are not as bad as have been said.
“I admit that my son swore and he was wrong for that, but like I said to the police at the time, kids do that kind of thing.
“At the end of the day, he is a 23-year-old bloke who has assaulted a six-year-old. The sentence is a joke.”
Peter Bradley, director of Kidscape, which tackles bullying and safeguarding issues in relation to children, said both Ryan and the boy could learn a lesson.
He said: “I think the main message that people should take from this case is that adults are adults and they should act appropriately when dealing with children.
“If a child is acting in the wrong manner then it has to be dealt with in the appropriate ways.
“In this instance, without doubt Ryan was wrong, but hopefully some support has been put in place so that this boy can learn from his actions too.”
The case prompted a mixed response from local people on social media.
Many were quick to point out that children should not be physically assaulted in such a way, while others had sympathy for Birtwell.
Ash Lea wrote: “You can’t physically abuse a child for bad behaviour.”
Zoe Lee said: “If it was not his child then I think it’s wrong.”
Sharon Humphries posted: “If this wasn’t his child then he’s in the wrong. It was up to the parents to discipline him.
“Youngsters need to be reminded how to respect their elders, but having said that, at six years old he’s still yet to learn.”
Leanne Askew posted: “That’s an old method. A filthy mouth gets washed with soap.
“Maybe they should be asking why the kid is behaving in such a disgusting age and especially at the age of 6.”
Sarah Elizabeth Shona Larsson added: “I would have got a clip around the ear for the swearing.”
Lisa Mason wrote: “We always got threatened with it. But we never got it done as I was well behaved. It prevented you from doing it as no one wants to eat soap haha!”
The mum of the boy who had his mouth washed out today (Thurs) denied he had kicked a man’s walking stick.
Lynne Forsyth, 36, a personal banker, says her son Alfie did swear but had not been violent toward the OAP.
He has one older brother, one younger sister and his dad works in a factory.
Lynne says her boy was doing nothing wrong at the time and that there was no old man involved in the incident.
She said: “There was no old man at all. He was in a park at the time with his older brother and various other friends. There were quite a few people around him.
“I think he [Ryan] has made up the old man to defend himself. I don’t know where this old man has come from at all.
“He was just messing about as kids do. There were quite a few other children on the park, playing with his friends, as he does, older children watching out for him.
“Him and Ryan were playing and messing about. Alfie called him a gay boy, which obviously I picked up on. I chastised him myself for that, and the police officers did.
“Then Ryan started pinning him down on the floor and various other things.
“Ryan has gone to the shop and got a bar of soap because of Alfie’s swearing and rammed the soap in his mouth.
“I was at home at the time but there was witnesses on the park at the time that saw this happen.”
Lynne has lived on the estate in Sunderland for 34 years and has never had any problems like this as it is a ‘tight knit community’.
She was even friend’s with Ryan’s mum before the incident, but isn’t anymore.
Lynne added: “I went down to see [Ryan’s] mother and I told her what happened and told her I was going to the police.
“My son has got a lot of allergies – asthma and eczema – soap and things aggravate him. He could have had a reaction. Who’s to know?
“Yes, Alfie swore. He was chastised for swearing. He wasn’t left unattended in the park, which has been slated. There was no old man attack.
“He is actually the victim and not the villain.
“It’s assault. If I had done that, if I had lifted my hand to my child, I would under investigation by social services.
“At the minute, Alfie is scared. Ryan is a liar – there was no old man involved. He is panicking thinking he is going to get wronged for attacking an old man.
“My six-year-old son didn’t attack anyone. He was attacked.
“He was chastised for swearing, which I don’t condone, from any children, not just him. But, that’s up to me to punish him, not someone on the park.
“I have lived in the street for 34 years and everybody knows everybody. He is always watched, so it’s not a case of being scared to let him out.
“We have done nothing wrong however he is frightened now because he thinks he is going to get picked on because he is being made to look like a bully against old men.
“Alfie has never had problems in the past. He is defiantly not out of control and he has not done anything in the past.
“I’m not going to have my son, or myself, dragged through the mud when we are the victims.
“I’m disappointed. As far as I was concerned, [Ryan] was dealt with at court, it was over with, my son was dealt with by myself and the police officers, for swearing, that was dealt with.
“Why this has all come to light and why my son is being made out to be a villain, attacking an old man, when it never happened?”
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