Police said they will continue to monitor three knife-wielding thugs sentenced for six robberies.

Watford Chief Inspector Matt Phillips said he sympathised with any public concern the conviction of three teenagers who pleaded guilty to six robberies in Watford was “lenient” – but that his team would respond “robustly” if they step out of line again.

Two 15-year-old boys from Watford and a 15-year-old boy from Borehamwood were each given a 12-month youth referral order at St Albans Youth Court on March 6.

They had previously pleaded guilty to the following offences, after being charged and conditionally bailed:

- Two robberies outside McDonalds in Watford High Street on December 4, 2018

- Two robberies on Hempstead Road, Watford on December 24, 2018

- Two robberies outside McDonalds on Watford High Street on January 5, 2019

During each attack the trio threatened victims with violence, in some cases at knifepoint.

All three boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will appear before a panel of community volunteers who will design a contract of conditions the teenagers must follow.

The parents of two of the boys must also take part in the order to ensure their children do not reoffend. A breach can result in a £1,000 fine, or prison.

The boys’ parents have also been ordered to pay £136.36 each in court costs.

Watford Chief Inspector Matt Phillips said: “My teams have worked incredibly hard for several months to investigate and gather evidence in connection with these robberies and although pleased with the convictions I am aware that people are concerned at the apparent leniency of the outcome.

“Whilst the police are not responsible for sentencing and I sympathise with their concerns, I want to reassure the community that all of my officers are fully aware of these boys’ identities and will deal robustly with any breach of the conditions of their referral orders

“In each offence, threats of violence were used against the victims as a way of getting them to hand over money and possessions which has had a lasting impact on them and their families.

“It is also very concerning that knives were used to threaten the victims in some cases. Many people will know that the issue of knife crime is very much under the spotlight at the moment, both nationally and locally.

“We are continuing to work closely with our partners in Watford Community Safety Partners to crack down on those who choose to carry knives and we have some positive projects in the pipeline.”