Facebook Riot Incitement Sentences Upheld


Two men jailed for trying to organise looting during the August riots via Facebook have lost their appeals

The Court of Appeal has rejected seven of the ten appeals made by people jailed for offences committed during the UK riots in August, including two men who were imprisoned for attempting to incite rioting in their hometowns via Facebook.

Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who created the “Warrington Riots” event on the social networking site, and Jordan Blackshaw who made a similar event entitled “Smash Down Northwich Town” were sentenced to four years back in August, even though their events stayed on Facebook, and did not create any real-world violence. They would normally have been sentenced in September at a Crown Court, but the court decided to jail them immediately due to the “serious nature” of their crimes.

The maximum penalty for incitement is ten years imprisonment, but civil rights groups, MPs and legal figures all argued that these, like many other riot-related penalties, were disproportionate.

However the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Sir John Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson disagreed, stating that the level of lawlessness during the riots was “utterly shocking and wholly inexcusable” and that “the imposition of severe sentences, intended to provide both punishment and deterrence must follow,” according to a BBC report

He continued, “It is very simple. Those who deliberately participate in disturbances of this magnitude, causing injury and damage and fear to even the most stout-hearted of citizens, and who individually commit further crimes during the course of the riots are committing aggravated crimes. They must be punished accordingly and the sentences should be designed to deter others.”

Three other defendants had their sentences for handling stolen goods halved, while five other offenders jailed for burglary had their sentences upheld.

Given the prominent role of Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger amongst those perpetrating the riots, Prime Minister David Cameron initially suggested that social networks might be closed down in any future disturbances. This idea was eventually dismissed, given the role of social media can also be positive. Twitter was used to organise a cleanup and co-ordinate responses.

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