Page last updated at 21:06 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Rhys sentence labelled 'disgrace'

Rhys Jones
Rhys Jones died after he was shot in a pub car park

The parents of murdered schoolboy Rhys Jones have reacted angrily to the jail sentence given to a gang member who supplied his killer with the weapon.

Rhys, 11, died in his mother's arms after he was shot in the car park of the Fir Tree pub, Croxteth. Sean Mercer is serving 22 years for his murder.

At Liverpool Crown Court James Yates was sentenced to seven years for helping Mercer and giving him the gun.

Stephen and Melanie Jones said: "We feel seven years is a disgrace."

The couple added: "In our minds he (Yates) is the one who provided the gun that killed our son and he deserved a longer sentence."

Three more of Mercer's accomplices, all fellow members of the Croxteth Crew gang, were also sentenced for assisting an offender. They were convicted after a 10-week trial.

It is us who are serving the life sentence, and we face that every day
Stephen and Melanie Jones

Nathan Quinn, 18, was jailed for two years; Dean Kelly, 17, received a four-year sentence and Boy M, aged 16, handed a two-year supervision order and a four-month curfew from 1900 GMT to 0700 GMT. All are from Croxteth.

Two other gang members, Melvin Coy, 25, and Gary Kays, 26, both from West Derby, were also convicted of assisting an offender and previously sentenced to seven years.

James Hughes, 22, of Croxteth, was jailed for six months for lying to police about Boy M's whereabouts when Rhys was killed.

Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, shot Rhys dead as he returned home from football practice on 22 August 2007.

The convicted gang members then helped destroy Mercer's clothing, dump the murder weapon and provide a false alibi for him.

Speaking after the hearing, the Joneses said: "We hope the other sentences handed out today, and before Christmas, do send a clear message to all those involved in gangs and with guns that they will be found out, tracked down, convicted and heavily sentenced.

"Despite this these sentences can in no way compensate for the loss of our loving son who had the world and his future at his feet.

"Since the conviction and sentencing of Sean Mercer before Christmas we have slowly returned to some sort of normal day to day life - but our lives will never ever be the same without Rhys.

"It is us who are serving the life sentence, and we face that every day."

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