Sunday 26 March 2017

Facebook riot messages were ‘just a joke’ not a call to loot – dad on trial

Tom Pugh

MESSAGES posted on Facebook by a father at the height of the nationwide summer riots were simply "banter among friends", a jury was told today.

There was no intention by Nathan Sinden to loot shops in Hastings, East Sussex, on August 9 when he wrote the comments on the social networking site, it was said.



Sinden, 27, allegedly aimed to stoke trouble by writing messages including: "Let's start a riot in Hastings. Who's on it?" and "Looting it is then today. Who's up for shopping?"



Hove Crown Court heard that when a friend posted a comment saying, "I hope your daughter is very proud" he replied, "She will be when I've got her loads of new things".



Prosecutors said that because of Sinden's posts and those of others, shops closed early and 38 police officers were deployed to Hastings town centre as rumours of trouble spread.



Today his friend Clinton Smith, a father of two, told jurors that he believed Sinden was joking and that there was no serious threat behind his comments.



Mr Smith, a part-time graphic designer and supermarket worker, said: "I took it as a joke straightaway. I thought he was being ironic.



"When I added my comment, 'Yeah, I'm going straight down to Poundland', I was also being ironic. I thought people would find it funny.



"I don't believe anyone would act on it. It was literally pure joking - banter among friends." He added: "Maybe my humour is not to everyone's taste but it was intended as a joke."



Sinden, of Blackman Avenue, St Leonards-on-Sea, was arrested the following day, August 10, and denies intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of burglary.



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