Millionaire's daughter jailed for acting as a driver in London riots

A millionaire's daughter was jailed for two years yesterday after she acted as the driver for a group of armed looters who pillaged shops and robbed people at knifepoint during last summer's riots.

Laura Johnson, 20, could be out of prison in just seven months after her lawyers claimed she acted in a "moment of madness" during the disturbances in London on 8 August last year. The university student claimed that a friend and three others jumped into her car and ordered her to drive around as violence spread throughout the city. She stopped to allow her passengers to leap out of the car wearing balaclavas and hooded tops to loot and rob.

Judge Patricia Lees said her role as driver was "pivotal" to the operation and that she had been excited to take part. "Your actions added to the overall lawlessness that threatened to overwhelm the forces of law and order," she said. "It is clear that these offences were committed as part of one of the most serious criminal enterprises which occurred during the civil disturbances."

Johnson – who is studying English and Italian at Exeter – is a former grammar school pupil who reportedly achieved four A*s and nine As at GCSE. Her parents, who run a successful direct marketing business, sat at the back of the court throughout the hearing.

Johnson, from Orpington, Kent, and Christopher Edwards, 17, were both jailed for burgling a Comet electrical store. She was told that she must serve only half of her sentence and that 144 days – almost five months – of tagged curfew would be deducted from her sentence.