Facebook rioters appeal ‘excessive’ UK jail sentences

A UK appeals court began hearing the first legal challenges yesterday to the lengthy prison sentences handed out following the August riots, including the convictions of two youths sentenced to four years for inciting riots on Facebook.

Britain’s most senior judge, the Lord Chief Justice, will hear the first ten appeals along with top magistrates Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson.

One key issue for the judges is whether the tough sentences handed out were “proportionate” to the disorder caused in several English cities in August, or whether they were excessive.

First to face the judges were lawyers for Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, both from Cheshire, northwestern England, who admitted using their Facebook accounts to encourage rioters.

The lawyers admitted what their clients did was “monumentally foolish,” “hugely stupid” and “hugely short-sighted,” but argued that their sentences were too long.

At their original trials both Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan separately pleaded guilty to intentionally encouraging another to assist the commission of an indictable offence under Sections 44 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.

Chester Crown Court heard that Blackshaw set up a Facebook event called “Smash Down In Northwich Town,” but that nobody turned up at the prearranged meeting point outside a McDonald’s restaurant.

Gareth Roberts, Blackshaw’s attorney argued that the sentencing judge “gave disproportionate weight to the necessity to deter others.”

“Four years goes well beyond what could be a properly deterrent sentence and could properly be deemed to be a fair sentence, even in the context of what was going on nationwide,” the lawyer said.

Sutcliffe-Keenan’s page, The Warrington Riots, invited people to “riot” on the evening of Aug. 10. Police closed down the Facebook site and no disorder happened.

Attorney Rebecca Tanner, representing Sutcliffe-Keenan, told the court that his four-year jail sentence was clearly excessive “in all the circumstances of the case and the offender.”

“Disproportionate weight was attached to the foreseeable harm rather than the actual harm caused,” she added.

Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan did not attend the hearing Tuesday. The case continues.

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