‘Disproportionate’ sentencing for rioters condemned

Pic: ohi007/Flickr

A charity has spoken out against lengthy custodial sentences, after figures have shown that offenders in the 2011 riots received unusually severe sentences.

The Hackney based Howard League for Penal Reform said that sentences handed out were disproportionate, and expressed concerns that they would: “devalue our response to more serious crimes.”

The charity spoke in the wake of the most recent Hackney conviction on October 17. Danny Whittemore, 21, was sentenced to 20 months for his involvement in the riots. Whittemore, of Stoke Newington, was found guilty of violent disorder and two counts of burglary.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice in September showed that some sentences were more than double the national average.

Those who committed robbery during the riots received on average 28.7 months, across both Magistrates and Crown courts. The usual average is 8.8.

Crimes concerning violent disorder were handed, on average, 25.7 months. The average before the riots was 5.3.

Shonola Smith, 22, Alicia Smith, 22, and Donness Bissessar, 22, of Croydon, all received six month custodial sentences for entering a looted shop. They had no previous convictions.

Alexander Elliott-Joahill pleaded not guilty to attempted GBH, after throwing bricks at officers in a police car. The 19-year-old, of Lee, was found guilty in September and handed an eight-year custodial sentence for his part in the riots.

Stephen Prince, a 23-year-old from Warwick Grove, was found guilty of two counts of burglary, two counts of arson, robbery, violent disorder and common assault. He was jailed for over six years.

Campaign director Andrew Neilson said: “The prison population has doubled since the mid-1990s. Governments have introduced tougher measures each year, with an abundance of criminal justice legislation.

“Yet despite all this, the outcome of being ‘tough on crime’ was some of the worst street disturbances seen in decades.”

Neilson added: “While it is understandable that the courts were asked to treat the public disturbances as an aggravating factor, this should be balanced against a key principle of criminal justice: that of proportionality.”

“It’s now clear that many of these sentences were grossly disproportional.”

Detective Sergeant David Cann of Operation Withern said: “Over a year after last summer’s disorder we are as committed as ever to identifying and bringing to justice those responsible.”

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