The boss of a multimillion-pound recycling firm who organised a fatal vigilante attack on a drug addict he wrongly thought had burgled his daughter has been jailed for 15 years.
Businessman Neil Elliott was told “the problem with street justice is that it is not justice at all” as he was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court along with two others who attacked Michael Phillips, 39, in his Hartlepool home last June.
Mr Justice Jacobs told the defendants if they accused Mr Phillips of a crime, he should have been entitled to be investigated by the police and treated as innocent until proven guilty, like they had been during their six-week trial.
Elliott, the 44-year-old owner of the Niramax recycling firm and who lived in a Hartlepool seven-bedroom mansion with swimming pool and stables, was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for 15 years.
He had posted on Facebook on the morning of the attack “Whoever burgled my daughter’s house and took her car, your life is about to change, trust me.”
His “staunch” associate Lee Darby, 32, was convicted of murder, after the jury heard his victim was punched, kicked and hit with a knuckleduster.
He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years.
Heroin addict Anthony Small, 40, was convicted of manslaughter after the jury heard he helped Elliott’s group get into Mr Phillips’ home and was jailed for 12 years.
Four other defendants were cleared of murder and manslaughter.
Elliott and Darby had driven around local streets in the businessman’s Mercedes pickup and Darby showed locals CCTV of the burglary, trying to find out who was responsible.
Mr Phillips suffered 50 injuries including 15 broken ribs, skull and facial fractures, and a punctured lung and spleen.
Mr Justice Jacobs said Elliott and Darby treated drug addicts with contempt and believed “smackheads” could have their homes entered without invitation, and that violence could follow.
The judge said: “What happened in this trial has been described as street justice.
“But the problem with street justice is that it is not justice at all and that as here, it may be administered to the wrong person in the wrong street.”
The judge said their victim had sadly struggled with drug addiction, but said he was a decent man “who had his life taken away within the space of a few minutes in a brutal and barbaric attack”.