Rioters - be warned

Anyone thinking that the Court of Appeal was about to find the sentences handed out to the rioters were excessive, would be wrong. The sentences were meant to provide both punishment and deterrence and are likely to remain for the majority of the rioters.

We now know the outcome of the ten appeals against sentences handed out in the aftermath of the August riots.  These have just been heard by the Court of Appeal.  In rejecting all but three of the appeals the Court emphasised that punishments given to offenders by the courts should be "designed to deter others from similar criminal activity."

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, heard the appeals with the assistance of  the President of the Queen's Bench Division Sir John Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson, and said the "level of lawlessness was utterly shocking and wholly inexcusable".

Among the seven appeals against "excessive" sentences which were thrown out by the judges today, were those brought by two young men who were given four-year terms for setting up Facebook pages inciting others to riot.

Both defendants had appealed for a sentence reduction and acknowledged that what they had done was both stupid and short-sighted.  Lord Judge was satisfied that both had intended to cause "very serious crime" at a time of "sustained countrywide mayhem".

Lord Judge took the view that the sentencing judge was "fully justified" in finding that deterrent sentences were appropriate.

The court of Appeal also upheld the sentences in the three burglary cases which came before the court.  Lord Judge then went on to give his reasoning why the three cases of handling stolen goods should be seen differently from the burglary cases saying “None of these cases of dishonest handling involves someone who handled stolen goods by way of encouragement of the commission of burglary and theft as part of the disorder.

Rather, each represents opportunistic involvement after the burglaries had occurred, and although in close proximity to the scenes of disorder, the appellants did not participate or contribute to them."

Lord Judge went on to say about the responsibility of sentencing: "There is an overwhelming obligation on sentencing courts to do what they can to ensure the protection of the public, whether in their homes or in their businesses or in the street, and to protect the homes and businesses and the streets in which they live and work.

"This is an imperative. It is not, of course, possible now, after the events, for the courts to protect the neighbourhoods which were ravaged in the riots or the people who were injured or suffered damage.

"Nevertheless, the imposition of severe sentences, intended to provide both punishment and deterrence, must follow.

"It is very simple. Those who deliberately participate in disturbances of this magnitude, causing injury and damage and fear to even the most stout-hearted of citizens, and who individually commit further crimes during the course of the riots, are committing aggravated crimes.

"They must be punished accordingly, and the sentences should be designed to deter others from similar criminal activity."


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