Tuesday 23 August 2011

Facebook riot invitation sentence 'too lenient

four-month sentence on a man who posted an invitation on Facebook to start a riot has been criticised by a Tory assembly member as too lenient.

David Glyn Jones, 21, of Bangor, Gwynedd, was convicted by Caernarfon magistrates after admitting a charge under the Communications Act.

At a similar case in Chester two men were each jailed for four years.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar said: "The public will want to see individuals made examples of."

Jones posted an invitation to friends in the form of a Facebook event for 9 August, which said: "Let's start Bangor riots... given the chance I'd love to smash up a police car, wouldn't you?"

The message was online for 20 minutes and no riot took place in Bangor.

Defence solicitor Deborah Tennant-Davies said Jones did not think it would be taken seriously and regretted his "moment of stupidity".

At least six individuals around the UK have been identified and dealt with for using social networks to encourage disorder.

The toughest sentences to date have been in Cheshire where two men were charged with inciting rioting under the Serious Crime Act and were jailed for four years at Chester Crown Court.

Mr Millar said he believed Caernarfon magistrates should have been tougher on Jones.

"There needs to be consistency - I don't know why he was charged under a different act," he said.

"I'm disappointed that he only got four months - I do think the public context overrides other concerns.

"I was very pleased with the tough sentences - the public will want to see individuals made examples of.

"These are very serious matters - if you look at the destruction that was caused and could have been caused it seems quite a lenient sentence."

However, David Banks, a media law consultant and co-author of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists, told BBC Wales the cases in Cheshire were very different.

He said they faced more serious charges and were being dealt with by a higher court.

"The other men gave specific times and places for people to gather," he said.

"It's possible the Crown Prosecution Service supposed there may have been a far greater likelihood that something would happen."

Clive Coleman, the BBC's legal affairs correspondent, said the difference in the cases would not be apparent to the public at large.

"If you're not in court you don't hear the full facts of the case," he said.

"But people are going to feel that a group of people who are involved in similar activity are prosecuted under different acts and are receiving different punishments.

"It's going to be a difficult thing for the public to understand."