I haven’t commented yet – much – on the four year sentences meted out to the two guys who were convicted of trying to incite a riot on Facebook. I’m a bit more ambivalent about this than some of the other sentences issues, where I think it’s clear that the courts were too harsh, as is being proved by the appeals currently being allowed (e.g. five months for handling stolen shorts reduced to 75 hours community service). There was an interesting report in the Guardian yesterday about alleged police plans for a “prisoner processing strategy” for all those arrested on riot-related charges to be held in custody and remanded there after being charged. As the paper says, this could be open to legal challenge; indeed, lawyers have already started a judicial review.
As for the so-called Facebook rioters… I think a lot depends on the seriousness of their intent, whether they thought they were actually going to incite rioting and looting, and, I suppose to an extent the actual likelihood of it happening in the relatively sleepy parts of England where they lived. (Well, perhaps Warrington isn’t that sleepy. Northwich I only know as home to the Charlatans who, despite their misfortunes over the years, always struck me as very nice boys).
Four years is a long time for acting like idiots, but not so long for unleashing mayhem, violence and looting on the streets. Which was unlikely to happen, but if they really thought it could, and were really trying to make it happen… As someone said in an argument on Twitter, if they’d been inciting a rape, would it matter whether or not the rape happened? I’m genuinely not sure what the legal view is in such cases – is “will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?” treated more seriously if it’s likely someone will act upon it? Or is it enough that you really want someone to rid you of him, and you’re entirely serious about calling for help? (Perhaps not the best example to use, as a) someone did rid him of that turbulent priest and b) he wasn’t happy about it… but you know what I mean).
There was an interesting piece in the Telegraph about this: four years in jail for the Facebook riots inciters: this looks too harsh, even for me. Interesting not so much for the author’s verdict on the sentence, but for the insight into how right-wingers think. Depressing in its certainty, and in its wrongness. Here’s an example:
“These were the riots caused by the cultural revolution and the state-worshippers’ war against the social institutions they loathe, the looters products of long-term welfare dependency, state-sponsored fatherlessness and mass immigration. Most of all they have undermined the all-powerful Pelagian fantasy promoted by the welfare-political complex that people behave badly because society oppresses them. In fact, as people not indoctrinated by Marxist utopianism will tell you, some people are just bad.”