PINEHURST was branded 'lawless' by the solicitor charged with defending a teen who took his gran’s sword handle into the streets to protect himself against knife-carrying hooligans.

The 15-year-old Pinehurst boy was picked up by police on Bessemer Road after he had made off from officers on his bike. Stashed on him was an ornamental sword handle, with three fearsome points instead of a steel blade.

Defending the boy, who cannot be named because he is under-18, solicitor Luke Jameson said: “From talking to my client and his mother, what I’ve heard of Pinehurst is that it is a particularly dangerous area. What I’ve heard is stories of youths robbing other youths.”

Youngsters were “routinely searched for money at knifepoint by other youths and other gangs”.

Mr Jameson added: “What I’m hearing is it’s a particularly lawless place.” His client, last convicted for knife possession in 2017, was genuinely in fear for his safety.

Community leaders and police challenged the depiction given of Pinehurst.

Sgt Caroline Burt of the Swindon North community policing team said: “We are alive to the ongoing issues involving young people in the Pinehurst area and we have been working really closely with partners, and with the local community in recent months, to tackle these issues.

“As a result, we’ve seen a number of success stories, with multiple arrests, seizure of drugs, weapons and stolen items.

“It is important to point out that these issues aren’t unique to Pinehurst. Comments of this nature can be both unhelpful for those who are trying to make a positive difference, as well as those law-abiding citizens living in the area.”

Andy Reeves, clerk of Central Swindon North Parish Council, said: “Pinehurst has the same challenges as any large urban area and the parish council certainly would not describe the area as ‘lawless’.”

That description came as the 15-year-old boy appeared before Swindon Youth Court last week, where he admitted possession of an offensive weapon.

Nick Barr, prosecuting, said two police sergeants had spotted the lad and his friend as they rode their bikes down Cheney Manor Road in the early hours of Thursday, June 27.

Their suspicions aroused, the officers followed the boys to The Manor pub. When the pair split up, the officers chased one of the cycling youngsters to a car park behind North Swindon Working Men’s Club.

He confessed to police to having a sword handle in his jacket pocket. Interviewed later by officers, he said he carried the item for his own protection.

Defending, Luke Jameson said the sword handle had belonged to his client’s grandmother: “He feels genuinely in fear of his own safety.”

The boy suffered from anxiety: “He doesn’t go out much for fear of being attacked.” He had been robbed a number of times.

Magistrates sentenced the boy to a three-month youth rehabilitation order. Linda Raine, chairman of the bench, warned him that he could face a spell in a youth detention centre if he was caught with a knife after he turned 16: “If you really want to go to prison next year, carry on.”

Anyone under 18 twice convicted of knife possession can expect an automatic four-month spell in youth detention.

Matt Bywater, manager of Swindon Borough Council’s youth offending team, said it was not true to describe the youngster’s experience of knife crime as “par for the course” for young people. But he added: “Young people need to understand the consequences and ramifications of this sort of behaviour.”