Bradford rioters' sentences were fair, court rules

Ian Herbert North
Friday 31 January 2003 01:00

The Court of Appeal has rejected a claim that jail sentences handed out to young Asian men involved in the 2001 Bradford riots failed to account for a "matrix of fear" created by the National Front.

Three judges ruled yesterday that prison terms for more than 100 people, ranging mostly from four to five years, were appropriate given the seriousness of the conflict, in which more than 300 police officers were injured and £27m of damage was caused.

In 15 appeals before the court, the judges reduced the sentences in only four, because of individual circumstances.

Defence lawyers headed by Michael Mansfield QC had argued that the sentencing judges, principally the Bradford Recorder, Judge Stephen Gullick, failed to take account of the origins of the disturbance – National Front activists.

Mr Mansfield said there was a perception among members of the largely Asian community in Manningham, scene of the riot in July 2001, that the sentences were unfair in the light of lesser jail terms imposed on white men involved in a less serious disturbance two days later. The Manningham riot was not premeditated, but was a "spontaneous reaction" to earlier conflict in Oldham and Burnley sparked by the National Front's efforts to cause division, he said.

Lord Justice Rose said it was "unfortunate" that Judge Gullick, in his sentencing remarks, said he was not concerned with the origins of the violence. "If he meant that the origins were irrelevant, he was wrong," the appeal judge said.

But the judges, also including Mr Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Mackay, said deterrent sentences were called for. The previous good character of the defendants and individual mitigating circumstances carried "comparatively little weight".

Lord Justice Rose said the Asian community was understandably concerned with defending itself against right-wing extremists. But when police tried to control Asians attacking pubs and shops, they came under a "heavy barrage of missiles ranging from petrol bombs to stones". The riot last 12 hours and involved hundreds of people.

Last July, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said those jailed for their part in the riots should stop "whining".

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