An Afghan refugee and convicted sex offender who grabbed a 17-year-old boy from behind and slit his throat on a bus in May of last year was sentenced on Friday, July 8, to a minimum of 32 months in prison.
At the sentencing hearing of Hamid Akhonzada, which took place at Chester Crown Court, the court heard how the brutal attack took place in Runcorn, a town in northwest England, on May 8, 2021. Dafydd Roberts, prosecuting, told the court how Akhonzada had been sitting behind the boy who was with his 16-year-old girlfriend when, seemingly unprovoked, the convicted sex offender grabbed the teenager by his hair, “held this head back and drew a bladed article described as a steak knife across the throat.”
The victim attempted to defend himself and was punched three of four times by his attacker before Akhonzada fleed the scene as the bus stopped. The boy received stitches to treat six or seven injuries to his neck, which were described as “cuts” by the presiding judge, Michael Leeming. The teenager’s girlfriend also sustained minor injuries, as she attempted to intervene and protect her partner.
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When the emergency services arrived at the scene, the victim was found sitting on the bus holding a facemask to his throat to stem the flow of blood.
Medical evidence described Akhonzada as having a “major psychotic disorder,” and he had reportedly “heard voices in his head telling him to stab somebody.”
A victim impact statement revealed the teenager had since suffered from insomnia, “flashbacks and night terrors,” anxiety, and social withdrawal as a result of the heinous attack.
Akhonzada was arrested and remanded in custody where just three days later, he beat a prison officer unconscious following an altercation in the open part of the prison wing. CCTV of the incident showed the convict chasing the officer around the pool tables before punching him and knocking him unconscious. He then proceeded to retreat to his cell voluntarily where he was locked up.
Kevin Slack, defending, said Akhonzada suffers from schizophrenia as a result of a series of traumas experienced as a child in Afghanistan where he lived before fleeing to the UK at the age of 16. In mitigation, the attacker’s counsel explained that Akhonzada’s father had been murdered when he was a child, and he also witnessed an individual killed in his homeland. Furthermore, his brother had been killed while in police custody in Afghanistan after being detained by a “corrupt” police chief.
Upon his arrival in the UK, Akhonzada resided in Croydon, south London, but was soon sectioned under the Mental Health Act and offered mental health support. The Home Office attempted to deport him in 2017 following a string of violent offenses, but he was granted leave to remain by an immigration tribunal on the basis that he would not receive adequate mental health support in his homeland.
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He was subsequently moved from the capital to the northwest town of Runcorn, but his medical care did not continue in his new home.
“I’m instructed that this was part of an official relocation rather than any desire or choice of the defendant himself, but what is clear is that following the relocation, the defendant was not picked up by mental health services in this area,” his defense counsel told the court.
An updated medical report revealed the defendant was now responding well to medication, and he wished to apologize to the teenager and the prison officer for the attacks inflicted upon them.
In sentencing, Judge Leeming accepted the mental health disorder suffered by the defendant, but ruled that he had a “compulsion” for violence and imposed upon him a four-year custodial sentence, with an additional four years on extended license. The judge held that Akhonzada would serve a minimum of 32 months in prison before being considered for parole.
“Your record for violence and sexual assault is a statutory aggravating factor,” the judge told Akhonzada, explaining that his “established pattern of violent and aggressive behavior” was key to the length of the sentence passed down.