Were Facebook Planners Of U.K. Riots Unfairly Punished?

People are questioning whether the punishment fits the crime for the organizers of the U.K. riots, who relied on Facebook to do the planning.

People are questioning whether the punishment fits the crime for the organizers of the U.K. riots, who relied on Facebook to do the planning.

In northwestern England on August 16, Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, received four-year sentences for using Facebook to organize the riots.

At the beginning of August 2011, London suffered from almost a full week of riots. There was damage, injuries, and death.

Now, British courts are looking to reprimand the thousands of people arrested during the chaos, and the first sentencing suggests there will be no getting off easy.

Blackshaw used Facebook to create an event — including time, date, and location — for a “massive Northwich lootin’,” and Sutcliffe-Keenan created a Facebook Page called “Warrington Riots,” which provided a time and date for people wishing to be involved in a riot.

Not exactly good citizen posts, but there’s a catch: Neither posting actually resulted in looting or rioting, causing concern from the public and civil rights groups about the harsh length of the sentences.

Undeniably, it was a bad joke, but is a four year sentence appropriate? Andrew Nielson of the Howard League of Penal reform told The London Times:

There seems to be a complete lack of proportionality to some of the sentences. These make a mockery of proportionality, which is a key principle of the justice system.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service defended the sentencing, arguing that the posts lead to panic amongs residents.

The real message: We are using these men as an example and sending a message. Whether one agrees with the sentencing or not, both men will likely appeal the decision. Some experts worry that as more harsh sentences from the riots are handed out, it will put stress on an already struggling court system.

What kind of message does such a harsh sentence actually send? Is it the message of a government interested in solving problems or a government seeking to make a point? Click here to read more on Social Times.