Two men have been jailed for 4 years each after they posted messages on Facebook that police say encouraged disorder during the recent riots. The plight of the two men, Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, has raised concerns that disproportionate sentences are being handed out in response to the riots. Even the prosecution in their case acknowledged that their posts had not led to any violence or disorder.
Critics have pointed out that if the two men had done the same thing just a week earlier, they would have probably gone unpunished. And while the context of their actions is obviously relevant, it seems that politicians and judges are now on a riot of their own, handing down crippling sentences to people in what appears to be an attempt to deter similar actions in the future.
Other absurd sentences linked to the riots over the past week include the case of Ursula Nevin of Manchester, jailed for 5 months for reportedly accepting a pair of shorts from a friend who had obtained them during the riots. Nevin herself had slept through the riots. And David Cameron has been pushing to make council tenants homeless if they are convicted of involvements in the riots.
We’re living in a Britain where the rich and powerful can get away with sustained acts of criminality and are not investigated even when police are handed evidence that then gets locked away, while people are jailed for years for what is – at best – a foolish mistake. Confidence in our justice system is likely to be eroded if this continues. David Cameron is right when he says that Britain is ‘broken’, but he has completely failed to look at the real reasons why the crisis is getting worse.