Jordan Blackshaw, 21, of Vale Road, Marston and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Richmond Avenue, Warrington, were jailed at Chester Crown Court for inciting disorder via social networking sites, as rioting and looting erupted in London and other cities last week, police said Tuesday.
Neither of their Facebook posts resulted in any rioting, a Cheshire Police spokeswoman said.
During the sentencing, the recorder of Chester, Elgin Edwards, praised the swift actions of Cheshire police and said he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent to others.
Sutcliffe-Keenan had set up a Facebook page called “Warrington Riots” that urged rioters to gather in the northwestern town on August 10, while Blackshaw had created a page encouraging people to cause trouble in his home town of Northwich on August 9, the spokeswoman said.
Residents and businesses reported the posts to police, and the men were arrested before any disorder occurred, she added.
Judge Elgan Edwards aid he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent to others.
Both men pleaded guilty under sections 44 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act to intentionally encouraging another to assist the commission of an indictable offence.
More than 1,300 people have been charged across England in connection with last week’s unrest, which led to widespread looting and damage. Five deaths have been linked to the violence.
Many courts have used fast-track procedures to bring suspects to justice.
Assistant Chief Constable Phil Thompson 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.
“In Cheshire, we quickly recognised the impact of the situation on our communities and the way in which social media was being used to promote and incite behaviour that would strike fear in to the hearts of our communities.
“From the offset, Cheshire constabulary adopted a robust policing approach using the information coming into the organisation to move quickly and effectively against any person whose behaviour was likely to encourage criminality. Officers took swift action against those people who have been using Facebook and other social media sites to incite disorder.
“The sentences passed down today recognise how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity, and send a strong message to potential troublemakers about the extent to which ordinary people value safety and order in their lives and their communities. Anyone who seeks to undermine that will face the full force of the law.”
Baroness Hamwee, the Lib Dem’s home affairs spokeswoman in the Lords, said David Cameron’s pledge of “zero tolerance” on criminality was not acceptable.
She told The Guardian that there should be “zero tolerance with zero tolerance”.
The Howard League for Penal Reform also warned against courts handing out disproportionate sentences after Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were jailed for four years each for inciting disorder, even though the riots they tried to plan never happened.
The men, both previously of good character, became the first to be sentenced by crown court judges for their involvement in the mass civil disobedience that swept England.
Martin McRobb, Crown Advocate for CPS Merseyside and Cheshire, defended the sentences, saying the pages caused “significant panic and revulsion” to the people of Cheshire.
“Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe independently and from the safety of their homes may have thought that it would be acceptable to set up a Facebook page to incite others to take part in disorders in Cheshire,” he said.
“They were wrong. They both used Facebook to organise and orchestrate serious disorder at a time when such incidents were taking place in other parts of the country.”
The violence first broke out August 6 after protests over the death of Mark Duggan in the north London neighborhood of Tottenham. He was shot after a police unit that deals with gun crime stopped a cab carrying the 29-year-old father of four.
Cameron on Monday blamed the riots on a “slow-motion moral collapse … in parts of our country” and said the government would “review every aspect of our work to mend our broken society” in the coming weeks. [via CNN, BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph]