Tuesday, August 16, 2011



Tom Walker

The courts have launched an onslaught against poor, working class people in the aftermath of the riots that swept British cities.

Police have arrested more than 2,000 people—and 1,000 have been charged so far. Courts up and down Britain dished out more rushed revenge than "swift justice".

A 23-year old electrical engineering student from south London, Nicholas Robinson, got the harshest sentence so far. He was jailed for six months for taking £3.50 worth of bottled water from Lidl.

And Greater Manchester police sparked outrage when they boasted about one case on Twitter. The cops wrote, "Mum-of-two, not involved in disorder, jailed for FIVE months for accepting shorts looted from shop. There are no excuses!"

Ursula Nevin did not even "loot" the shorts—she just accepted them as a gift from her flatmate. Her children are aged one and five.

But these extraordinary cases are just two among hundreds.

Another mother-of-two, Tracy O'Leary, took home a bag of clothes she found under a bush in a park.

Tracy, who works as a carer at a school for children with severe learning difficulties in east London, was jailed for 16 weeks for receiving stolen goods. Judge Williamson told her "You jolly well ought to have known better".

In Manchester, police accosted Jason Ulett, aged 38. They accused him of being a looter because he was wearing dark hooded clothing and riding a bike past a vandalised shop. He was jailed for ten weeks for struggling with and swearing at the officers—and told he should have been cycling away from the violence.

Meanwhile 50-year old Peter Ellwood was hauled before a Manchester court for shouting abuse at volunteers sweeping up after the riots. He was conditionally discharged for 12 months.

Those accused of actually stealing anything faced even tougher judgments.

Shonola Smith, 22, sobbed as she and her sister Alicia were jailed for six months. They were found inside an Argos in Croydon, and Shonola had ten packets of chewing gum on her. She was set to start university next month.


And 19-year old Stefan Hoyle was caught with a stolen violin in the aftermath of the looting in Manchester. He was sentenced to four months in a young offender's institution for theft. He told police he "had always wanted" to learn the instrument.

Courts ran overnight and held unprecedented Sunday sittings. There was chaos at Westminster magistrates court as lawyers turned up at a few minutes’ notice with no idea who they were representing.

The enquiries desk worker couldn’t put together court lists fast enough. "Hang on, we’ve just had 12 more come in," he said.

District judge Tim Devas told one man found guilty of obstructing police in Nottingham: "Don't you feel ashamed that you are now counted among the hundreds of yobbos arrested and now considered as scum by the public?"

Sky News journalist Lia Hervey wrote, "I have covered magistrates courts for many years and I have never seen a judge been so harsh as today."

Two thirds of those who appeared before magistrates were remanded in custody—denied bail until crown courts can hear their cases.

This means many will be in jail for months before their trial, where the higher court can give out even harsher sentences.

In Manchester, Steven Keith, 43, was denied bail, accused of stealing items worth £1 from a local shop. Reece McDonagh, 21, was remanded in custody over a baseball cap allegedly taken from Foot Asylum.

Nathan Dempster, an 18-year-old college student from Croydon, cried in front of his mother and grandmother when he was told he would stay behind bars. He is accused of stealing aftershave from House of Fraser.

Also in Croydon, James Best and Sean Havens pleaded guilty to stealing cakes and biscuits from a bakery. Both are homeless. They were denied bail.

Regina Appiah, a care worker, is accused of receiving stolen goods. The court was told she was likely to lose her job and accommodation and could even have her two-year old child taken into care if she was denied bail. She was denied bail.

Dane Williamson, 18, of Salford, faces potentially the longest sentence of those who have appeared so far. He is accused of arson against a Miss Selfridge clothes store and being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

He says he is the victim of mistaken identity. If found guilty, he could face life imprisonment.

MPs have lined up to condemn the rioters. They call for harsh sentences for poor people who have taken things of relatively little value—or simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The state lost control last week. This week it tried to wreak revenge.


original article at


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