Riot Planner 'Somewhat Shocked' At Four-Year Sentence; Plans Appeal

Aug 17, 2011

It seems likely that two British men sentenced to serve four years in prison for plotting riots — which did not take place — will appeal their sentences. Their punishments were handed down less than a week after Britain was seized by fiery riots.

In separate cases, Jordan Blackshaw, 21, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, both pleaded guilty to inciting unlawful acts on Facebook. In each instance, the young men's plans were reported to authorities, their posts were taken down, and their towns were spared the unrest that struck other cities. But in court, both were told they would serve four years in prison for their crimes.

Blackshaw's lawyer, Chris Johnson, told the BBC that his client was "somewhat shocked by the sentence," as was Blackshaw's family.

A debate has now erupted over the punishment, which critics see as excessively harsh. But in British Prime Minister David Cameron's eyes, the four-year sentences are appropriate.

"They decided in that court ... to send a tough message, and I think it's very good that courts are able to do that," The Guardian quotes Cameron as saying. "What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behavior, and to send a very clear message that it's wrong and won't be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing."

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake disagreed, telling BBC's Newsnight that the pair would not have received the same sentences if they had posted their comments on Facebook before the riots began.

"This should be about restorative justice ... it should not be about retribution," Brake said.

The BBC reports that two more cases of men accused of using social media to incite public disorder will be taken up in court Thursday.

And a mother who turned her daughter in for rioting after seeing her on television during the first day of riots made an emotional appearance in court with her daughter Wednesday.

Adrienne Ives left the courthouse in tears after her daughter Chelsea, 18, was remanded into custody for three weeks while her case is pending.

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