Justice is something of a joke this week. It is not making sense. All you have to do is compare and contrast some of the sentences handed out to would be rioters. Joshua Moulinie, 19, escaped a jail sentence and was told to write a letter of apology to the owner of the Spar store after he used Facebook to encourage people to vandalise the shop during last week's riots.
While he was let off on Tuesday two men from the north of England were jailed for inciting people to riot by using Facebook. Jordan Blackshaw (left), 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were jailed for four years each. Incredibly. The madness that infected the rioters on the streets has leaked into the court system which is now battering people with heavy sentences.
Moulinie has said his Facebook post was clearly a joke. That appears less true of the other two. Blackshaw for instance created an event on Facebook called 'Smash Down Northwich Town' while Sutcliffe-Keenan set up a page called 'Warrington Riots'.
Those are the toughest sentences handed down so far after last week's English riots. It seems wildly disproportionate. While they were being jailed looters in Manchester were also jailed with three men for between 16 months and two years.
David Cameron's response yesterday was to praise the jailing of Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan. The PM backed the "tough" four-year punishment handed out as others attacked them for being over the top.
Cameron said: "They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message. I think it's very good that courts are able to do that."
Cameron is using the riots to make political capital and push a tough law and order agenda. That isn't what is needed. His response highlights a failure in the justice system. Pushing tough jail sentences on offenders who deserve suspended sentences or months in prison rather than years only reinforces the idea that society has failed and continues to fail a large group of people.
The four year sentence for the would be Facebook rioters is the equivalent to a manslaughter conviction. Facebook post and manslaughter. Simply reading those two together tells you all you need to know.
Sure jail people and send them down for years, but stick to criminals. Those who deserve it. Not two idiots who failed to get anyone to turn up proving themselves not only fools, but friendless ones at that.
The Facebook pair, who appeared at Chester Crown Court were arrested almost immediately after posting on Facebook. Blackshaw who told would be rioters to meet behind McDonald's at a set time, wrote: "We'll need to get on this kickin' off all over."
Sutcliffe-Keenan's 'Warrington Riots' page invited anyone who wished to "riot" on Wednesday 10th August 2011 to sign up. These pages are usually used to organise parties and get togethers rather than criminal damage.
As the pair were sentenced the Judge Elgin Edwards, the Recorder of Chester, said he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent to others. Justice shouldn't be an example or a deterrent.
Judge Edwards branded both men "evil". Harsh. What do you call someone who is actually evil? Like a serial or child killer? What's left?
Judge Edwards told Sutcliffe: 'You caused a very real panic and you put a very considerable strain on police resources in Warrington. You changed your mind and posted a retraction but it does not change the evil of the offences.'
While it does look like Blackberry Messenger was a real tool of rioters, I'm sure many others texted, phoned and spread the message by word of mouth. Some of those talking about the riots on Twitter (other than the media and others discussing it and sensible sharing information way) were more engaged in noisey and stupid public displays of bravado rather than criminal intent.
Social media proved itself much more of a force for good after it was praised by Manchester and Sussex Police; we saw some inspiring riot stories as people did good after the riots; of how it was at its best as a tool that helped communities pull together in the riot clean-up.
This sentence makes as much sense as the Tories making noises about clamping down and stopping people using social media in light of the riots. That kind of talk is as wrong as these sentences and as over the top as the man arrested for organising a water fight via BlackBerry Messenger. A water fight?
The harsh sentences in general have been attacked by the Tories coalition partners. The Lib Dems. Baroness Hamwee, the party's home affairs spokeswoman in the Lords, said Cameron's pledge of "zero tolerance" on criminality was not acceptable. She told The Guardian that there should be "zero tolerance with zero tolerance".
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