Mum of two walks free after riot jail term revoked
Published 20/08/2011 | 05:00
A mother of two became the first person jailed in connection with England's riots to walk free after having the severity of her sentence reduced on appeal yesterday.
Ursula Nevin (24) was jailed for five months last week for accepting a pair of shorts that her housemate looted during rioting in Manchester, but was released after a judge decided she should carry out community service.
She was ordered to do 75 hours of unpaid work instead.
Nevin was in bed at the time of the disorder in the city centre on August 9. But her lodger, Gemma Corbett, also 24, took clothing and footwear from the Vans store and then went back to the house they shared in Stretford.
Corbett was jailed for 18 months and Nevin pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods at Manchester magistrates' court. But the judge told the court: "Ursula Nevin did not go into Manchester city centre. We regard it as wrong in principle that she was subject to a custodial sentence."
The courts are facing a mountain of appeals over harsh sentences handed down since the riots, but British Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated his support for tough justice.
"It's a matter for the courts. The government's responsibility is to provide the prison places necessary that the courts decree. What we've seen happen is that courts have decided to set some pretty exemplary sentences to send a very clear message that what happened was wrong. I think it's important that our criminal justice system can do that," he said.
The number behind bars in England and Wales has risen by more than 100 a day over the past week, hitting 86,654 yesterday, less than 1,500 short of the prison system's 88,093 capacity.
Some courts have been told not to order pre-sentence reports, which give details of offenders' backgrounds, in rioting cases. Bruce Reid, a solicitor working at Camberwell magistrates' court, said he had been told the reports "should not normally be prepared" in such cases.
Lord Carlile, president of the Howard League for Penal Reform, warned that bypassing the reports could lead to successful appeals or judicial review.
"This is not hand-wringing liberal stuff, it is the practical side of sentencing," he said.
Malcolm Duxbury of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association added: "I think we will be seeing a large number of appeals."
As the courts continued to process riot cases, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited areas badly affected in Birmingham and met the families of three men murdered at the height of the violence.
Foreigners who took part in the riots face deportation, Damian Green, the immigration minister, said yesterday. More than 150 arrested over rioting or looting were born abroad, it is believed. (©Daily Telegraph, London)