Judge says riot sentences were fair

Justice who gave teenager eight-month jail term for stealing Lucozade bottle breaks silence

The judge who sent a teenage girl to jail for eight months for stealing a bottle of Lucozade and a bag of sweets during last summer's riots has vigorously defended the tough judicial response in which two-thirds of defendants were denied bail and harsh custodial sentences were handed down to first-time offenders.

In a public interview – highly unusual for a serving judge – District Judge Tan Ikram, who sits at Camberwell Green magistrates' court, warned those who incite others using social media such as Facebook that they can expect similarly harsh sentences in future.

Mr Ikram revealed that it was the threat of "widespread public disorder" which justified the large numbers of youngsters remanded in custody for petty crimes which would have ordinarily attracted little more than a caution. "There were a large number of people being brought to court and evidence of a large number of people involved in civil disorder. The question each judge had to ask was: 'What is the risk of future offending?' In light of what was going on that was a very different question to one that might be asked in the calm of today."

Mr Ikram says there was no political pressure on judges to come down hard on the thousands of rioters and opportunistic thieves: "I can assure you, no politicians told me or any of my colleagues what to do. We applied the law."

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was among senior ministers forced to cut short their summer holidays to return to deal with the riots, and who had promised tough action against those involved.

Dozens of first-time offenders, who were not directly involved in the rioting but were later caught stealing booty such as cigarettes and shoes, ended up in prisons already struggling with intense overcrowding.

Mr Ikram says judges got sentencing "just about right" and insisted each case had been treated fairly on its own merit despite the all-night court sessions and political outrage. The district court judges were speaking to more senior judges "on a regular" basis right from the start, he said.

In one of last summer's most controversial cases, Jordan Blackshaw, 20, was sentenced to four years in prison for inciting people to riot on Facebook even though no rioting occurred.

Mr Ikram this week told his audience in Ealing, west London, where violence and looting also spread: "It is my personal view that [in the Blackshaw case] it was the potential to reach many people through Facebook, far and wide, when there was already widespread disorder going on, and this is why the Lord Chief Justice came to the view that the sentence wasn't excessive."

He added: "The world is changing and the judiciary and society have to deal with new situations. While we can't second-guess where technology is going to, we can have general principles: encouraging widespread disorder is a serious offence and that is not new."

Mr Ikram praised the "good will" and "resilience" of judges, court staff and prosecutors. He said that they had enabled the courts to deal with dozens of rioters every day last summer.

* On 16 June we referred to District Judge Tan Ikram as "the judge who sent a teenage girl to jail for eight months for stealing a bottle of Lucozade and a bag of sweets". We have been asked to clarify that the girl pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary, in one instance including the Lucozade bottle and confectionery, but also a separate charge of looting clothes from a retail store. It was for the total offences that she was sentenced. During the reported discussion the Judge did not discuss this or other cases, other than to analyse a Court of Appeal judgment. He did not use the discussion to publicly defend his sentencing decision.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms