The Court of Appeal (Lord Chief Justice, President of the Queenâs Bench Division and Lord Justice Leveson) has dismissed seven out of ten appeals against sentence brought in cases arising from the civil disorder that occurred across cities in England in August 2011.
R v Blackshaw& Ors  EWCA Crim 2312 judgment
Those dismissed include the cases of the Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe who hadused the social networking site facebookin attemptsto stoke the disorder that proved unsuccessful.
Giving the judgment of the court the Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, set out the applicable sentencing principles as follows (Â§4):
"... the imposition of severe sentences, intended to provide both punishment and deterrence, must follow. It is very simple. Those who deliberately participate in disturbances of this magnitude, causing injury and damage and fear to even the most stout ‐ hearted of citizens, and who individually commit further crimes during the course of the riots are committing aggravated crimes. They must be punished accordingly, and the sentences should be designed to deter others from similar criminal activity.
The Court makes clear this is not a new found sentencing policy by referring to the context of a riot in Cambridge some 40 years ago and that the approach reflects consistent sentencing policy for many years and continues in force today.â
And further (Â§8):
"... the context hugely aggravates the seriousness of each individual offence. None of these crimes was committed in isolation. Eight of them were intrinsic to or arose from the widespread lawlessness and two more were intended to contribute to or aggravate it at a time when the disorders were at their most disruptive and alarming....The reality is that the offenders were deriving support and comfort and encouragement from being together with other offenders, and offering comfort support and encouragement to the offenders around them. Perhaps, too, the sheer numbers involved may have led some of the offenders to believe that they were untouchable and would escape detection. That leads us to address the suggestion that perhaps this level of public disorder should be treated as "mindless" activity. It was undoubtedly stupid and irresponsible and dangerous. However none of these appeals involves children or young offenders (where different sentencing considerations arise) nor indeed offenders with significant mental health problems. None of the offenders before us was "mindless". The actions were deliberate, and each knew exactly what he (and in one case, she) was doing."
As to the facebook offences the court concluded that (Â§74):
"....What both these appellants intended was to cause very serious crime, in the case of Blackshaw, rioting burglary or criminal damage, each in the context of serious public disorder, and in relation to Sutcliff, rioting, in the context of serious public disorder. All this was incited at a time of sustained countrywide mayhem.
"The judge was fully justified in concluding that deterrent sentences were appropriate. These offenders were caught red ‐ handed. For the citizens of Northwich and Warrington that was just as well, because as we have explained, and the guilty pleas acknowledged, neither offender was joking when the Facebook entry was set up."
The court also dismissed five appeals by those convicted of burglary offences arising from the disorder. The appeals that were allowed all involved convictions for handling stolen goods. Those cases were distinguished on the basis that (Â§117):
"... In cases like these, a line needs to be drawn between the offences which arose from and were directly connected with the disorder (which is an aggravating feature in itself) and those which were intrinsic to the disorder (an even more aggravating feature). None of these cases of dishonest handling involves someone who handled stolen goods by way of encouragement of the commission of burglary and theft as part of the disorder. Rather each represents opportunistic involvement after the burglaries had occurred, and although in close proximity to the scenes of disorder, the appellants did not participate or contribute to them. The connection between the offences which they committed and the burglary and theft committed during the disorders takes them outside the ordinary guidelines for handling offences, but not every handling offence committed during the public disorder was as intrinsic to it as, say, the burglaries of shops which had been smashed and looted. The sentences must recognise these distinctions."
> Court of Appeal press summary (18/10/11)