27 Sep 2011

First riot sentences to be challenged

Defendants, including two men jailed for inciting rioting via Facebook, face appeal court judges in a bid to overturn their sentences following the summer disturbances.

August riots in London (Getty)

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson, will deal with appeals in 10 crown court cases stemming from the rioting and looting which took place in several English cities in August.

They include appeals by Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who were jailed for inciting others to riot via Facebook even though the call ultimately failed to generate unrest.

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

Sutcliffe-Keenan’s page, The Warrington Riots, invited people to “riot” on the evening of Wednesday, 10 August, between 7pm and 10pm.

One of the key issues for the three judges will be whether tough sentences handed down were “proportionate” in the light of the seriousness of the riots, or whether they were excessive.

In August, Steve Hynes from the justice charity the Legal Action Group told Channel 4 News: “In exceptional circumstances such as these, where public order is at stake, to err on the side of harsher punishments is probably right.

“But with the passage of time we believe some sentences currently being handed down will seem too harsh and counter-productive.”

Late judgement expected

A spokeswoman for the Judicial Office said that given the number of cases and the issues to be considered, the court is unlikely to be in a position to give judgement in the appeals.

So far, more than 1,700 people have appeared before the courts in connection with the riots, with 300 sentenced.

Police are still hunting for other alleged participants in the rioting and looting in London and other cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.

Concerns have also been raised about jail conditions following the riots, as the prison population reached more than 86,000 for the first time, and led to claims that those jailed were being victimised by other prisoners because of overcrowding.

The rest of the cases being heard

Coach driver David Beswick, 31, of Anson Street, Eccles, was jailed for 18 months at Manchester Crown Court for handling stolen goods.

Enrico Vanasco
, 25, who took a £300 camera from Jessops, was jailed for 20 months at Manchester Crown Court after admitting burglary.

Hassan Halloway, 39, of Bennett Street, Crumpsall, was jailed for four years and eight months at Manchester Crown Court after admitting burglary charges and violent disorder.

Territorial Army soldier Lorriane McGrane, 19, from Peckham, south east London, was jailed for 13 months at Inner London Crown Court after admitting stealing a television.

Stephen Carter, 26, of James Street, Salford, who was caught with a bag of clothes and shoes worth £500 was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court to 16 months for theft by finding.

Michael Gillespie-Doyle, 18, from Openshaw, admitted burglary at Sainsbury’s in Deansgate in Manchester city centre and was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court to two years in a young offenders’ institution.

Stephen Craven, 25, of Pendleton, was jailed for 12 months, also at Manchester, after pleading guilty to handling stolen goods.

Hasan Koyuncu, who was sentenced at London’s Wood Green Crown Court to 12 months in a young offenders institution for burglary.