In the aftermath of the riots that swept the UK earlier this month, local courts and authorities have been swift to crackdown. Notts Police have charged 75 people with offences relating to the disorder, including 18-year old Amed Pelle who was sent to prison for 2 years and 9 months for comments made on Facebook. Nottingham City Council have also jumped at the opportunity to look tough and Leader Jon Collins has said he ‘will seek to evict anyone who is directly involved, or whose sons or daughters have been involved in disturbances.’ In response a group has formed to resist any evictions.
Previous feature: Riots spread to Nottingham
With the Tories calling for exceptionally tough sentencing for those involved in the disturbances, a number of high profile cases have made headlines including a mother jailed for 5 months for handling stolen shorts (who was later freed on appeal), a man jailed for 6 months for stealing a bottle of water and a man jailed for 16 months for taking a lick of an ice cream.
There have also been sentences of several years for posting material on the internet that supposedly incited rioting. Two men from the North West were sentenced to 4 years in prison for ’inciting riots’ on 16th August. Jordan Blackshaw organised an event that only himself and the police turned up to, whereas Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan made a joke page called the Warrington Riots whilst drunk and then removed it the next morning. In Nottingham, 18-year old Amed Pelle was sentenced to 2 years 9 months in jail after making a number of pro-riot comments on his Facebook page.
Soon after the riots began the Government considered banning people from accessing social networking sites in order to quell the riots and met with the heads of Facebook, Twitter and Research in Motion (the company behind the Blackberry Messenger service) to ‘discuss their responsibilities in this area’. David Cameron asked the police whether they needed new powers to shut off social networking sites. Although the Government has since backtracked it is worth noting that the move received praise from the Chinese state. It is also worth noting that only months before, during the Arab Spring, the UK was commending the social networking of rioters who overthrew governments in Tunisia and Egypt.
Various central government and local authorities have also called for other punishments for those linked to rioting and their families, including stripping them of welfare benefits and evicting them from their council houses. Proceedings have already begun in the London Boroughs of Wandsworth and Southwark to evict tenants who have been charged along with their families. Campaigners against the evictions call the moves double punishment and collective punishment and have demonstrated outside the home of Ravi Govindia, the leader of Wandsworth Council. Nottingham City Council is also threatening to evict tenants from Nottingham City Homes properties. NCCLOLs has examined the tenancy agreement and recommends that those who might be affected seek legal advice soon.