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UK: 2 get jail term for inciting riots on Facebook

August 17, 2011 17:54 IST

Two men who tried to incite a riot on Facebook have been handed the longest jail terms so far by courts dealing with last week's rioting in Britain.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were both sentenced to four years despite neither of the destructive events the men attempted to organise actually happening.

The pair appeared at Chester Crown Court after police discovered Facebook pages created by the men that urged rioting in their home towns.

Blackshaw, of Northwich, Cheshire, set up an event entitled "Smash Down Northwich Town" and Sutcliffe-Keenan of Warrington created the page "Let's Have a Riot in Latchford".

Both men pleaded guilty to intentionally encouraging another to assist the commission of an indictable offence under sections 44 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

Neither Blackshaw nor Sutcliffe-Keenan were accused of rioting or looting themselves, yet the pair were given the lengthiest sentences so far in relation to the nationwide disorder.

The CPS defended the strict punishment of the pair as Martin McRobb, Crown Advocate for CPS Merseyside and Cheshire, said the pages caused "significant panic and revulsion" to the people of Cheshire.

Sally Ireland, policy director of the law reform organisation Justice, told the Guardian, "Some instances are completely out of all proportion. There will be a flurry of appeals although, by the time they have been heard, those sentences may already have been served."

The sentences came as Home Secretary Theresa May said she was considering whether more general curfew powers were needed to help prevent a repeat of last week's violence.

Victims will also be given the chance to speak out as ministers said the government would be establishing independent communities and victims' panel to ensure those caught up in the trouble "can have their voices heard".

H S Rao In London