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UK Men Get 4 Years For Trying to Incite Riots Via Facebook 400

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-pass-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In addition to the 12 arrests from last week, a judge has sentenced 20-year-old Jordan Blackshaw and 22-year-old Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan to four years in prison for their failed attempts to use Facebook to incite riots in the UK. The judge said he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent. The two men were convicted for using Facebook to encourage violent disorder in their hometowns in northwest England."
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UK Men Get 4 Years For Trying to Incite Riots Via Facebook

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    • ...goolies [youtube.com].
      Still the best practical (albeit politically incorrect) response to hooligans.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      just planning a crime isn't a crime everywhere though.

      but it's ridiculous if you can get away from manslaughter for less time.

      • Did you have a particular manslaughter case in mind? Typically manslaughter would not be less than 4 years. It might be on occasion, but it would no doubt be because of mitigating circumstances.

      • just planning a crime isn't a crime everywhere though.

        And that's a good thing too. We don't really want to condemn murder mystery authors doing research for a book that they are writing.

        Or fireman having an exercise of how to react to a bombing (Some amount of planning must have preceded the fake bombing to make it realistic enough for the exercise).

    • "Suspicion of intent to conspire"
  • No sense at all (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AvderTheTerrible (1960234) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @01:12AM (#37126544)
    If you are going to make an example of someone, make an example of someone who actually succeeded in using social networking to incite violence and cause damage. These two were just some drunken idiots who thought the riots were cool and wanted to bring them to their town while in a state of inebriation. Fine the hell out of them and make them do some work for the community, no need to take four years of their lives away for something they failed utterly at.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      I think England would like to see its ~1970's bank robbery and "Irish" legal thinking extended to social networking.
      Expect to see a web 2.0 "conspiracy to commit" legal roll out.
    • Re:No sense at all (Score:4, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @01:30AM (#37126622)
      What's up with the apparent urge by the British government to "make an example" out of people? Is it that their voters are angry the riots happened and want blood? Is there a legitimate fear that riots could happen again any time soon? Or is it simply an opportunity for them to look like they are tough on crime, vote for me and we'll protect you from those terrible (fill in the blank with whatever you have an irrational fear of)?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by huiwe (1292974)
        The voters have been told in rolling news that they should be angry and focus on that. So they probably are. The surprise is the rush to provide all the power the police needs to counter the terrorist threat had provisions that the government still couldn't get into law. This new threat should remedy that. All it took was for the police to literally standby and do nothing, not even using the powers they already had.
        • This is exactly how we ended up with the Patriot Act on this side of the Atlantic. All those pesky citizens rights getting in the way of Catching Terraists. The greatest threat facing Western civilization today is our own governments "protecting" us from perceived threats.
          • The greatest threat facing Western civilization today is our own governments "protecting" us from perceived threats.

            The greatest threat facing any child is the protection of its parents.

            Life needs risk, challenge, consequences. 'Only danger can keep you safe from harm', so the poem goes.

          • by Ed Black (973540)
            It's a shame, but yes we must watch out for this - the politics of emotion are always quickly abused by modern western governments to snatch powers away from the individual, and to impinge on their liberties and privacy.

            There is a massive majority of people who are rightly keen to see justice done, but knee-jerk legislation and further ramping up of the surveillance state are what will probably huge dangers.

            It's the same old process. Give a government a problem, and they will grant themselves some hei
        • Re:No sense at all (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ed Black (973540) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:47AM (#37127124)

          The voters have been told in rolling news that they should be angry and focus on that..

          How rude and insulting. The voters must be stupid, right?

          No. The voters *experienced* the riots and are livid that members of their own communities would betray their own in such a nihilistic orgy of crime costing lives, injuries, homes, at least hundreds of jobs (of people/families in their own communities, not of the banks or politicians) and costing millions upon millions of pounds when the country is facing austerity measures, for entertainment and to put a flat screen tv and an xbox in their front room.

          "Told they should be angry". Perhaps if you were injured, or your workplace* and/or home** was burned down, or your community had lots of people hurt, homeless and jobless and was looking down the barrel of rebuilding the town when it was facing cuts in every public service, you might think it warranted a serious deterrent for or at least removal of rioters, for however long is appropriate under the law.

          Even if they aren't "mindless zombies controlled by the press".

          Perhaps if it was YOU looking at your wrecked community or even life, you might think a little pause for thought was warranted before people labelled you malleable and stupid.

          *Lots of places can't afford good insurance now btw
          **Nobody can afford home insurance in the kind of deprived areas where homes were burnt down.

          • Nobody can afford home insurance in the kind of deprived areas where homes were burnt down.

            Well, except the slumlords, who probably have complete rebuild insurance with a value much higher than the property, and can build a much nicer house and increase the rent a lot as a result...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by amck (34780)

        The current ConDem government is making dramatic cuts in these deprived areas. In the areas around London where the riots occured, youth unemployment pushes 20-30%, practical illiteracy near 40%. The ComDem government has been introducing 'austerity' measures, removing grants to support schools making attending high school equivalent infeasible for many poorer, closing down the youth clubs, etc.
        Local groups have been pointing out that the neighbourhoods have been near riot for months now.

        On top of this, th

        • These riots were nothing to do with "cuts in... deprived areas". It's been a festival of lawlessness and thuggery with destruction of property and widescale theft. Not one person has gone to the media with a political statement, demand, issue etc.
        • Re:No sense at all (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gmccloskey (111803) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @04:06AM (#37127212)
          I think you are confusing some of the political unrest from the 80s with the self-serving mindless violence of recent weeks.
          It is absolutely true to say that government cuts are affecting national and local funding for all citizens, and they are affecting deprived areas. However, these cuts have only come in to effect fully from April this year. The unemployment and illiteracy have been at those levels for a long time, including during the boom years of 1995-2005, and during the previous Labour administration. It is illogical to say that the currently limited impacts of the austerity measures are giving people cause to riot. If you look at the actual activity during the riots, it didn't include political protest, marches, speeches or any other normal signs of protest by ordinary people. It did include a relatively large number of groups causing criminal damage, violence and commiting flagrant acts of theft - typically of high value goods and big name brands. This was theft on a large scale, enabled by breakdown in normal social barriers.
          The government is planning to reduce both front and back office police numbers, however these cuts have not taken place yet to any extent. Police numbers are at almost record levels. The police didn't retreat to protect stations, they deployed in the areas that they thought needed protection. However the mobile hoards, enabled by SMS and social networks, just moved to new sites, typically after a short skirmish. In short, asymmetric confrontation and overwhelming numbers. Once the scale of the problem was understood (a d a few politicians returned from holiday) they brought in an extra 16000 police for London alone - an increase of approximately 25% on the normal force. This managed to suppress most of the activity.
          There are currently reportedly over 1000 people arrested, and the MPS have suggested that possibly another 2000 will be, once the CCTV and other evidence is analysed. This is hardly tiny by any one's measure.
          As for brutal policing, the MPS have been negatively criticised for not being tough enough in the first few days, and they adjusted their tactics subsequently. They have not however used plastic bullets, water cannon, tear gas or any other large scale crowd suppression measures. This is not brutal. If you want to see 'firm' policing, ask the French.
          As for fixing problems on the ground, the previous administration spent 10s of billions over more than a decade on enhanced social benefits and programmes for the disadvantaged. While it has doubtless helped many, it has also raised a generation that expects to live off the state, spurn education and employment, contribute nothing in return except vocal occasionally violent protest about how they are not provided enough.
        • To be clear, these "drastic cuts" in deprived areas are not optional.

          No-one has any money, least of all the people in the area.

          Spending money you don't have and will have to pay back has made the cuts more extreme than they might have needed to be.

          Some of the poor are poor because they waste what they have - like a bunch of hooligans did this time. On the other side sometimes the rich aren't rich, they just borrow high.

          Riots don't bring money out of no where to make someone with no money pay for what you ca

    • by RogueyWon (735973) *

      I think this is just a timing issue. Those who successfully incited riots will have longer charge sheets, including charges of actual disorder and criminal damage. Hence their cases will take longer to bring to trial than these relatively simple cases involving a single charge. They'll probably get even longer sentences when their cases do come up (probably in a couple of weeks).

      And I don't particularly see why incompetence should be a defence in the face of the law.

    • Re:No sense at all (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mushdot (943219) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:41AM (#37127102) Homepage

      Blackshaw created a Facebook event entitled 'Smash d[o]wn in Northwich Town' for August 8 but only the police showed up, and arrested him.

      He deserved four years for his piss poor organisation.

      On a serious note, I think that Blackshaw should perhaps have got two years max (he did create a page which tried to encourage rioting in his home town), but the other bloke perhaps six months for being a drunken dick(he took his page down as soon as he woke up sober.)

      However as others have commented I'm sure the sentences will be reduced on appeal once the country has calmed down.

  • by DurendalMac (736637) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @01:12AM (#37126546)
    The article says they're appealing it and I'll wager they'll see drastically reduced sentences. 4 years is utterly absurd. Put the people who were actually throwing molotovs and smashing storefronts into the joint for four years, but not guys who made Facebook posts, especially when one deleted it after waking up with a hangover.

    I'll wager these guys won't do much in the way of hard time. They certainly shouldn't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Half agree, half disagree.

      Incitement, aiding and abetting, attempted etc. tend to incur the same standard as the crime itself. (Indeed in terms of such disorder it's often those quietly encouraging others who perpetuate the whole thing). So they should get similar sentences to those actively participating in the riots, if you increase those to 4 years, then these sentences are fine, if on the other hand they're all getting fines and suspended sentences then these are excessive.

      • by DurendalMac (736637) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @01:42AM (#37126664)
        I think they should be punished, but they didn't actually smash in storefronts, burn down buildings, or throw bricks at cops. I think the end result of the actions should definitely have a bearing on the length of the sentence.
        • by malkavian (9512)

          Just like if you were to hire a hitman, you don't actually fire a bullet, so the sentence should be different?
          These guys were actively attempting to incite riots at a time when they were actively happening, attempting to fan the flames (as it were) and cause a spread of burning and looting.
          Context is half of a story, and the context of this is clear. It's not intended as a joke, it's not satire. These guys were trying to incite the destruction of businesses and livelihoods, burning and looting. For no ot

          • Just like if you were to hire a hitman, you don't actually fire a bullet, so the sentence should be different?

            I think so, yes.

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        It wasn't a judge that imposed this sentence, it was a magistrate. The justices' clerk advised them ignore normal sentencing guidelines, so that most likely the basis that their sentence will be reduced.

    • by xenobyte (446878)

      Actually 4 years seems fine to me. After all their apparent intention was to assemble a mob and create havoc and cause damage. This could be regarded as a disorganized attempt at inciting revolution, something any society must deal with in a very severe manner with harsh penalties.

      The guys on the street should get a lot more than 4 years, plus have to pay FULL restitution to those affected. Yes, I know the damages runs into the billions but the taxpayers or other insurance holders should not have to pay for

  • It just goes to show that even on the internet you can get in big trouble. A lot of people are learning that you can't get away with "everything" on the internet anymore. I'm surprised these people actually used their name. Haven't they heard of the people that have gotten fired for posting things about their job from there?
    • It just goes to show that even on the internet you can get in big trouble. A lot of people are learning that you can't get away with "everything" on the internet anymore. I'm surprised these people actually used their name. Haven't they heard of the people that have gotten fired for posting things about their job from there?

      I'd suggest that these people (and most of the other people involved in the riots) aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the box...

  • they aren't going to catch most of the actual rioters?
    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:32AM (#37126842)

      No they probably won't catch most. There were an awful lot of rioters and looters. But they have arrested nearly 3000 people with 1300 having been in front of the courts so far. And they'll be continuing to track them down for weeks or months to come. So it's not that they don't have people who actually rioted/looted that they can make examples of.

      The motivation is obvious. They don't want anyone else to incite a riot. Deterrence being one of the 3 justifications for punishment, and the most important one in this case.

  • Others crimes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2011 @01:57AM (#37126732)

    The judge said he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent.

    This could be a pretty big problem.

    The Judge himself is pretty much saying here that he considers the punishment to be excessive compared to the crime but that Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan should be punished more because the legal system doesn't want to bother with the rest of the criminals.
    Well, it is not exactly his wording and it might not be that way in this particular case but I have seen that kind of reasoning in other cases and I seriously doubt that the two boys even would have been arrested if it weren't for a lot of other people running around causing trouble in the UK at the moment.

    Compare to the average file sharing case where the plaintiff is punished because he could potentially have distributed a work to 10000 other people.
    In those cases it is assumed that the plaintiff has distributed the work to 10 other people and that he should take the punishement for the crimes that those other 10 people did. (Not that it clears them from any legal action in the future.)

    • by gsslay (807818)

      The Judge himself is pretty much saying here ... that Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan should be punished more because the legal system doesn't want to bother with the rest of the criminals.

      Not so. The punishment of criminals has always had the important function of deterring other (potential) criminals. That's why justice being seen to be done is just as important as it being done. In that way they are certainly being made an example of, like all convicted criminals. The message is here is if you pull stupid crap like this there are uncomfortable consequences to be faced.

      It may be an excessive sentence, and they probably will win an appeal, but I'm fine with that if it gives them a scar

  • Because really it does seem fast for due process.. Like, really. Like, Japanese Conviction Rate [wikipedia.org] fast...
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Countries like the UK, Canada and Japan use group sentencing if all of the same people are caught doing the same thing(i.e. riotous actions, drug smuggling, theft, etc). It saves on time, and court space instead of having 250 or 800 trials. They simply bring them to court, have their lawyer represent them, use a jail feed, or sworn in by affidavit(as required/need), that they're pleading *x* to whatever crime.

      If someone want to dispute it, they can. Then they get shoved off into another court at a later

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Well they confessed and plead guilty. What else is there for court to do except fill out some paper work and sentence them?
  • This will get appealed and tossed out, but in the mean time, it might just be handy to keep people guessing before they go rioting.

    "hey, let's have a riot!"
    "no, we will get a billion years in prison just facebooking about it."
    "ok lets go find some birds to shag"

    Something to keep the tossers off balance.

  • Bully for Cameron! (Score:5, Informative)

    by radio4fan (304271) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:13AM (#37126784)

    Prime Minister David Cameron said [telegraph.co.uk]:

    Mr Cameron said: “What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behaviour 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.

    Mr Cameron is no stranger to appalling behaviour, being a former member of the Bullingdon Club [wikipedia.org], "notorious for its members' wealth and destructive binges". The club song apparently goes: "Buller, Buller, Buller! Buller, Buller, Buller! We are the famous Bullingdon Club, and we don't give a fuck!"

    Cameron's 'Buller' escapades include running from the police through the streets of Oxford after a heavy flowerpot was thrown through a restaurant window [ft.com].

    • The country is morally corrupt. When lords are send to jail by the bus load but still only a fraction of the ones who made a complete mess of things can you expect the people on the bottom not to feel they can do some leeching of society as well?

      Human society doesn't work because we are social or because we are good but because more or less the majority doesn't want to much fuzz so they get along. Just see how on footpads people tend to go left-right despite their not being any law for it. Because going aga

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think you're making some serious exaggerations there, there were a handful of Lords sent to jail over the expenses fiddling (Lord Taylor and Lord Hanningfield are the two that spring to mind), not bus loads.

        In terms of sleaze you're about 14 years out-of-date for that. The last election where sleaze was ever a big issue was 1997 when Tony Blair came to power, and the reason that that was a big issue was because it was an easy target for Labour, and an easy one to sell to the tabloids. The last election

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:14AM (#37126796)

    THIS is about consequences. No one can shut you when you have to say something - but expect some punishment if something you want to say includes breaking the law in senseless way like looting and destroying others property without sensible cause. And yes, even you see your aim just, law just doesn't care. Judge might, but still you will receive penalty for initiating uncontrolled mobs and riots. If you want start a revolution, sorry kid, with all good intends it takes much more organizing than that. Otherwise mob is just a mob and in it responsibility and morality of individual goes down the drain.

    4 years sounds harsh, but I don't know lot of details. I would go for 2 years, which are enough for thinking this trough.

    • The only consequences from these people's actions are that they got arrested and prosecuted. They didn't actually incite anyone to riot, noone responded to their posts by turning up and rioting. No riots occurred in the places they suggested in their posts. The only people who responded to the posts were the police, who are now butthurt that they turned up to defend shopping centres on the strength of a stupid facebook post. They should be prosecuted for wasting police time, if anything. They are being
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Sure, it's about consequences when a bunch of kids smash up some store fronts. But when men in suits crash the entire world economy, where are the consequences? Do you really think this is justice?

    • There is another type of mob--Reichsparteitag kind. Courts that violate the rights of the individual to free speech and fair punishment only give the appearance of morality and order while producing the opposite.
  • Facebook? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:00AM (#37126948)

    4 years in primary school would have been more appropriate.

  • by he-sk (103163) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:06AM (#37126972)

    First of all, research has shown again and again that harsh penalties simply do not work as a deterrent to other offenders.

    Secondly, does the judge expect that another riot is around the corner? Who is he trying to deter?

    I expect the sentence to be reduced on appeal.

    • by dkf (304284)

      First of all, research has shown again and again that harsh penalties simply do not work as a deterrent to other offenders.

      But speedy arrest and conviction does deter. It's a primate thing: do something socially bad, bad things happen back to you, learn not to do it.

      Who is [the judge] trying to deter?

      Anyone and everyone stupid enough to ever think that they can get away with this sort of thing without consequences, and he's trying to do it over as many years for the future as possible.

      I expect the sentence to be reduced on appeal.

      OTOH, incitement to riot is a serious offense particularly when widely disseminated. (That it happened online isn't really germane to this case; doing it by giving speeches to a c

      • by itsdapead (734413)

        But speedy arrest and conviction does deter. It's a primate thing: do something socially bad, bad things happen back to you, learn not to do it.

        ...and handing down over-the-top sentences in this case has ensured that there will be an appeal, which will effectively prolong that process and give the perps a sense of vindication.

        Its pretty clear that these people were not the sinister criminal masterminds behind the riots - they're just a couple of irresponsible tw@ts who needed to spend their weekends sorting garbage for the next six months. Now, when the inevitable appeal has reduced their sentence, they'll be folk heroes to their fellow tw@ts and

  • Would four years be unreasonable if they were caught breaking into and looting a store? I believe that someone who instigates an illegal action should be punished as if they committed that action themselves.

    • and it turns out that this invasion was illegal under international law, should they be prosecuted as war criminals?

      how about if someone says we should torture POWs? and we do torture POWs? are those people guilty now of war crimes?

      how about if someone says we should kill all the lawyers? if some lawyer gets shot, should that person go to prison?

      how about if some website is full of comments about how downloading movies and music in violation of copyright law is legitimate because the companies are evil? sho

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