Latest Public Sector News


Controversy over riot sentencing

Penal reform campaigners have hit out against the severity of some of those being sentenced in relation to last week’s riots – especially the four years in prison received by two men who admitted using Facebook to incite disorder.

Following the four days of rioting across England, over 2,770 people have been arrested, with many of those subsequently charged. Many offenders are being sent from magistrates courts to crown court, which have tougher sentencing powers.

Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, told the BBC: "A four-year sentence would normally be associated with offences such as holding someone up at knife point, grievous bodily harm, sexual assault, and I'm not sure that the offence in question was really related to those types of offences."

Others have said the usual sentencing guidelines seem to be being ignored, with young teenagers guilty of a first offence being sentenced very heavily when they would usually be given more help to turn their lives around. Prisons could also struggle to cope with the influx of offenders, some have said.

But Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire Police Phil Thompson, commenting on the four year sentences handed down to those using social networking sites to incite riots, said: "If we cast our minds back just a few days to last week and recall the way in which technology was used to spread incitement and bring people together to commit acts of criminality, it is easy to understand the four-year sentences that were handed down in court today.”

Some MPs are concerned that the long sentences will cause social disruption that will ultimately inflict further harm upon the community in question. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, for example, said the focus should be on “restorative justice”, not punishment.

But many others consider tough sentencing the only way to demonstrate that there will be consequences for the actions of rioters. Conservative MP for Stourbridge Margot James said: “I think the young men involved were inciting a riot, which would have put lives at risk and put a lot of fear into people.”

Sentencing Judge Andrew Gilbart QC from Manchester Crown Court said: “I have no doubt at all that the principal purpose is that the courts should show that outbursts of criminal behaviour like this will be and must be met with sentences longer than they would be if the offences had been committed in isolation.

“For those reasons I consider that the sentencing guidelines for specific offences are of much less weight in the context of the current case, and can properly be departed from.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >