A GANG of teenagers, two aged just 14, embarked on a "reign of terror" with a four month street robbery spree in Southampton.

The teenagers committed a string of robberies in parks and alleyways across the city centre.

The trio would approach their victims and demand cash, cards and valuables, Southampton Crown Court heard.

But the boys were spared a youth detention order – the equivalent of an adult prison sentence - due in part to their young age.

Recorder Simon Foster said the law forced him to “bend over backwards” to keep the teens, all who were all previously of good character, out of prison.

He said: “I find it astonishing that you should have embarked on a criminal career starting out with these extremely serious crimes.

“This was, in many ways, a reign of terror for anyone who was young, out after dark and out in a park at that time.”

The court heard how the three boys, aged 14, 14 and 15, carried out their campaign of robberies between October last year and January this year.

Prosecutor Tim Compton said the group targeted their victims, mostly teenagers, in the city centre, including near Ikea, the Bargate and in Houndwell Park.

He said during their spree, the group robbed one teenager of more than £100 of cash, which he had been given for his birthday, robbed another after he had been “frogmarched” into an alleyway, and targeted one teenager twice.

Richard Tutt, mitigating for one of the boys, said the court was required by law to only consider a youth detention order as “a last resort for children and young people”.

One of the boys, who pleaded guilty to eight counts of robbery and two attempted robberies, was given a two year youth rehabilitation order, including a 16 week electronically monitored curfew.

The two other boys, one who pleaded guilty to four robberies and the other who pleaded guilty to three robberies and a theft, were both given 18 month youth rehabilitation orders, both with 16 week electronically monitored curfew.

The boys could not be named for legal reasons - despite an appeal by the Daily Echo.