Judges warn rioters on sentencing
Tuesday 18 October 2011
Severe sentences will be handed out to anyone who takes part in the kind of lawlessness which caused "mayhem" across the country in the summer, judges warned today.
Rejecting all but three of 10 sentence challenges arising out of August's widespread civil disorder, they stressed that punishments given to offenders by the courts should be "designed to deter others from similar criminal activity".
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting at the Court of Appeal with the President of the Queen's Bench Division Sir John Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson, said the "level of lawlessness was utterly shocking and wholly inexcusable".
Among the seven appeals against "excessive" sentences thrown out by the judges today were those brought by two men given four-year terms for setting up Facebook pages inciting others to riot.
Lawyers for Jordan Blackshaw, 21, of Northwich, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Warrington, both Cheshire, said what their clients had done was "monumentally foolish", "hugely stupid" and "hugely short-sighted".
But dismissing their pleas for a sentence reduction, Lord Judge said both had intended to cause "very serious crime" at a time of "sustained countrywide mayhem".
The sentencing judge was "fully justified" in concluding that deterrent sentences were appropriate.
They were both caught red-handed, said Lord Judge, adding: "For the citizens of Northwich and Warrington that was just as well because ... neither offender was joking when the Facebook entry was set up."
He said the "abuse of modern technology for criminal purposes extends to and includes incitement of very many people by a single step".
He added: "Indeed, it is a sinister feature of these cases that modern technology almost certainly assisted rioters in other places to organise the rapid movement and congregation of disorderly groups in new and unpoliced areas."
The judges also dismissed five appeals in burglary cases, but allowed three challenges relating to handling offences and reduced the custodial terms originally given.
Lord Judge said: "None of these cases of dishonest handling involves someone who handled stolen goods by way of encouragement of the commission of burglary and theft as part of the disorder.
"Rather, each represents opportunistic involvement after the burglaries had occurred, and although in close proximity to the scenes of disorder, the appellants did not participate or contribute to them."
Lord Judge referred to the "ghastliness inflicted on a variety of different neighbourhoods subjected to public disorder".
The appeals were by 10 adult offenders "involved in the lawlessness in different ways and different places".
On the issue of sentencing, Lord Judge said: "There is an overwhelming obligation on sentencing courts to do what they can to ensure the protection of the public, whether in their homes or in their businesses or in the street, and to protect the homes and businesses and the streets in which they live and work.
"This is an imperative. It is not, of course, possible now, after the events, for the courts to protect the neighbourhoods which were ravaged in the riots or the people who were injured or suffered damage.
"Nevertheless, the imposition of severe sentences, intended to provide both punishment and deterrence, must follow.
"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 from similar criminal activity."
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