Riot youths have sentences reduced

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The Independent Online

Four youths who committed burglary or handled stolen goods during the August riots had their sentences reduced today on appeal but were all told that custody was the right decision.

Legal teams for three of the appellants argued they should have received only community penalties while the fourth appellant's sentence was considered too long.

Judge Anthony Gee QC ruled the district judges who originally dealt with the cases at Manchester Magistrates' Court correctly found they had all crossed the custodial threshold.

Sitting at Manchester Crown Court with two magistrates, he heard the appeals after each appellant decided to press ahead with the hearings rather than wait for the expected Court of Appeal judgment on a number of other riot cases due to be announced next week.

First to appeal was a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who entered a smashed-up Cash Converters store in Salford shopping precinct on August 9 and picked up a Nintendo DS games machine.

He plugged it into the mains while inside the store but threw it away when he could not get it to work.

His mother marched him to the police station three days later when she recognised his photograph on a Greater Manchester Police website appeal over the disturbances.

The youth, who was 15 at the time, said he was "devo'd" - slang for devastated - at his actions.

He pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced to a 10-month detention and training order - half of which is spent in a young offenders institution and the remaining period out on licence.

Simon Gurney, defending, said a non-custodial youth rehabililation order had been recommended in the pre-sentence report at the magistrates' court and that was the decision that should have taken place.

"It is my respectful submission that the sentence was manifestly excessive," he said.

The court heard he had no relevant previous convictions and, although previously excluded from two schools, was keen to return to full education as soon as possible in his final GCSE year after the "shock" of custody.

He had been on bail on suspicion of stealing a bicycle at the time of the burglary.

Judge Gee said any appeal had to consider the backdrop of the widespread public disorder taking place at the time but the sentence could be reduced to six months after taking into account all the circumstances, the fresh mitigation and his age.

He told the boy: "You are fortunate to have caring parents and a good home. We hope that during the time you are in custody you continue to make progress and we hope the view that the likelihood of you not reoffending in the future will prove correct. Time will tell."