Friday 24 November 2017

Facebook rioters: Two men jailed for inciting others to revolt challenge length of sentences

Cathy Gordon and Brian Farmer

TWO men sentenced to four years for setting up Facebook pages inciting others to riot today challenged their "manifestly excessive" custodial terms.

Lawyers for Jordan Blackshaw, 20, of Northwich, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Warrington, both Cheshire, told three Court of Appeal judges that what their clients had done was "monumentally foolish", "hugely stupid" and "hugely shortsighted".

But they urged the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting in London with Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson, to rule that their sentences were too long.

The judges are hearing 10 cases - the first sentence challenges by defendants jailed for their involvement in the August riots.

All the appeals and applications for leave to appeal before the court are from Crown Court cases stemming from the rioting and looting which took place in several English cities.

One of the key issues for the judges is whether tough sentences handed down were "proportionate" in the light of the seriousness of the riots, or whether they were excessive.

Blackshaw and Sutcliffe have waived their right to attend today's proceedings, but three others are present in the dock.

At the start of the hearing Lord Judge announced that the court would not be giving judgment on the appeals today.

Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan 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 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 August 10 between 7pm and 10pm.

Gareth Roberts, counsel for Blackshaw, told the appeal judges today that what he did was consistent with someone carrying out a spontaneous "but monumentally foolish act".

It was something he "now regrets very deeply".

Mr Roberts argued that the sentencing judge did not give adequate weight to Blackshaw's guilty plea and his personal mitigation and also "gave disproportionate weight to the necessity to deter others".

He said: "It was a spontaneous act carried out in stupidity rather than anything more serious."

Mr Roberts told the judges: "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."

Solicitor-advocate Rebecca Tanner, representing Sutcliffe-Keenan, told the court that the four years imposed on him was manifestly excessive "in all the circumstances of the case and the offender".

She submitted that his actions on that day were "hugely stupid and hugely short-sighted", but the sentence was "simply too long".

It was accepted that the courts would wish to send out a signal to others tempted to behave in a similar way, but Miss Tanner argued that the length of the sentence imposed on her client was "disproportionate to the offence and the act committed".

She added: "Disproportionate weight was attached to the foreseeable harm rather than the actual harm caused."

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