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by Euro Reporter
2011-08-19 08:06:34
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For inciting riot online, 2 get 4-yr jail in Britain

Two men who tried to incite a riot on Facebook have been handed the longest jail terms so far by courts dealing with last week's violence in Britain. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were both sentenced to four years despite neither of the destructive events the men attempted to organize actually happening. They appeared at Chester Crown Court after police discovered Facebook pages created by them that urged rioting in their home towns.

Blackshaw, of Northwich, Cheshire, set up an event entitled 'Smash Down Northwich Town', and Sutcliffe-Keenan created the page 'Let's Have a Riot in Latchford'. PM David Cameron backed the tough sentences for rioters after campaigners expressed concern. Cameron said, "They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it's very good that courts are able to do that." Neither Blackshaw nor Sutcliffe-Keenan was accused of rioting or looting themselves, yet the pair was given the lengthiest sentences so far in relation to the nationwide disorder.

The CPS defended the strict punishment of the pair as Martin McRobb, Crown Advocate for CPS Merseyside and Cheshire, said the pages caused "significant panic and revulsion" to the people of Cheshire. Sally Ireland, policy director of the law reform organisation Justice, told the Guardian: "Some instances are completely out of all proportion. There will be a flurry of appeals although, by the time they have been heard, those sentences may already have been served." The sentences came as the Home Secretary said no-go areas could be brought in to clear the streets in a bid to give police the powers they need to tackle future riots. Theresa May said she was considering whether more general curfew powers were needed to help prevent a repeat of last week's violence. Victims will also be given the chance to speak out as ministers said the Government would be establishing an independent communities and victims panel to ensure those caught up in the trouble "can have their voice heard".


Riots show Britain in last chance saloon

Britain is in "the last-chance saloon" when it comes to solving the "social crisis" at the root of the riots, the work and pensions secretary has said. In a Spectator interview, Iain Duncan Smith predicts the unrest on England's streets will prove to be a turning point in David Cameron's leadership. Mr Duncan Smith said the events had the potential to influence the PM in the way 9/11 made an impact on Tony Blair.

"This is our warning... the crisis is coming," he said. Mr Duncan Smith, along with the Home Secretary Theresa May, is to present a report in October on tackling gangs. He told the Spectator: "There has been a lot of focus on debt and the economic crisis. Now, we have to focus on the social crisis.

"The prime minister made it clear that this, now, is his big focus. It is not possible to have watched or experienced any of these riots without realising that we're in the last-chance saloon." Asked whether the riots would influence Mr Cameron's leadership in the same way as the September 11 attacks on the US affected Tony Blair's tenure in Number 10, he added: "Well, I think he sees it like that. It's been a reminder to him. He's now determined this is what he wants to do."


Controversy over harsh sentences in Britain

British courts have been accused of resorting to “rough justice” under government pressure, with judges and magistrates handing out unduly harsh sentences to young people involved in the recent riots after being reportedly advised to “tear up” normal sentencing guidelines when dealing with convicted rioters. MPs and rights activists expressed concern over “naming and shaming” of young offenders and giving them long sentences as part of the Conservative-led coalition's crackdown on rioters. Figures showed that the number of people remanded in custody after being charged with rioting offences was more than six times the usual rate.

In by far the most controversial case, two men were sentenced to four years each in jail for “inciting” disorder by posting messages on Facebook though nobody responded to their calls and no riot took place. The families of Jordan Blackshaw (20) and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan (22) said they were “shocked” by the length of the sentences — the longest handed to any rioter so far — and would be appealing. A spokesman for campaign group, the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “A four-year sentence would normally be associated with offences such as holding someone up at knife point, grievous bodily harm, sexual assault, and I'm not sure that the offence in question was really related to those types of offences.” In other cases, a 23-year-old student was jailed for six months for stealing water bottles worth £3.50 from a supermarket, and a woman sent to prison for five months for receiving a pair of stolen shorts.

Critics pointed to wide disparities in sentences being handed out by different courts for the same offences suggesting that some were being “swayed” by government pressure to take a hardliner approach. This was “distorting” the justice system, they said arguing that courts should impose similar sentences “whether you are sentenced in Birmingham, Bournemouth or Bradford”. The Ministry of Justice said the sentencing decisions were “based on the individual circumstances of each case and offender”. Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been criticised for his “knee-jerk” reaction to the riots, said it was good that courts were sending out a “tough message”. “It's up to the courts to make decisions about sentencing, but they've decided to send a tough message and it's very good that the courts feel able to do that,” he said.

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