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Two jailed for Facebook posts to incite British rioters

Men sentenced to four years in prison

Amid claims of overly harsh justice, a British court has sentenced two men to four years in prison for attempting to use Facebook to incite rioting last week.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were convicted of creating Facebook pages that aimed to "organize and orchestrate" disorder in their hometowns in northwest England.

About 1,400 people have already been charged with riot-related offenses after last week's wave riots and looting across Britain, CBS reports:

More than 1,200 have appeared in court — often in chaotic, round-the clock-sessions dispensing justice that is swifter, and harsher, than usual.

Both men pleaded guilty: Blackshaw for using Facebook to create the event "Smash Down Northwich Town" — with a date, time and location — for "massive Northwich lootin'"; and Sutcliffe-Keenan for creating a page on the social networking site called "Warrington Riots."

Blackshaw had called for people to gather "behind maccies" — believed to be the McDonald's restaurant, where the police turned up to arrest him, AFP reports.

Sutcliffe-Keenan told the court that he had been drinking when he set up his page, with a time and date for the event "Let's Have a Riot in Latchford," and that when he awoke with a hangover the next morning, he removed the page and apologized.

Justice campaigners and lawyers, meantime, have criticized Britain's courts for imposing overly harsh sentences, saying come they were "out of proportion and risked undermining the entire system," AFP reports.

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The former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Paul Mendelle QC, told BBC 5 live:

"When people get caught up and act out of character, in a similar way, there is a danger that the courts themselves may get caught up in a different kind of collective hysteria — I'm not suggesting violence or anything like that — but in purporting to reflect the public mood actually go over the top and hand out sentences which are too long and too harsh."

AFP reports:

"The rush to send a message out is leading to some very bad sentences, which will be overturned on appeal," said Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns for the Howard League for Penal Reform.

He said it was "understandable" that the riots be treated as an "aggravating factor", but added: "In the Facebook case we're talking about four years' jail which would normally be associated with serious and violent offenses."

In sentencing three other looters at Manchester Crown Court on Monday, Judge Andrew Gilbart reportedly said "outbursts" of criminal behavior like the looting and rioting "must be met with sentences longer" than if committed in isolation.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched an independent panel to investigate the causes of the riots. Clegg said convicted rioters, wearing orange clothing, would soon be put to work cleaning up the devastated communities, as part of a "community payback" plan. 

Separately this week, a British teenager appeared in a London court Tuesday to face charges of murdering 68-year-old retiree Richard Bowes during rioting last Thursday, VOA reports. Bowes died of head injuries after being attacked in west London.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22.

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