Via Facebook: UK man gets four-year sentence for inciting riots

Another UK man has been sentenced to four years for posting messages on Facebook inciting other people to riot in their home towns. The ruling is to serve as a warning to others, the judge said.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

24-year-old Jamie Counsel has been jailed for four years after admitting to using Facebook to incite disorder during August's riots in England. The man from Cardiff set up a Facebook group on August 9 titled Bring the Riots to Cardiff, though he later changed it to Bring the Riots to Swansea. As rioting affected cities including London, Birmingham, and Bristol, 36 people joined the group, and a further 35 people joined after it was renamed.

Counsel wrote about riots, looting, robbery, and burglary. He made a point to specify a time and location for the disturbance: Wednesday August 10 between 5pm and 8pm in Cardiff City Centre. He was arrested on August 10, at 5:40 PM – about the time he had stated the riot should happen, after other Facebook users contacted the police. No one else turned up at the meeting point.

The sentence should be a warning that anyone using social media to incite violent disorder would face stiff punishment, said the judge at Cardiff Crown Court, according to WalesOnline. "The public rightly expects that such conduct will be deterred by severe sentences and the Court of Appeal has made it clear that must be so. The reasons are obvious from the scale of the disorder we saw. It cost vast sums of money and led to loss of life with the burden on the police being enormous and the terror to ordinary citizens incalculable. And you saw fit to encourage people to bring it to the streets of Cardiff and Swansea. The message must be clear - if anybody is tempted to use modern media to incite violence on our streets - they will be detected and will face stern punishment."

Counsel pleaded guilty to inciting violent disorder when he appeared in court a month ago. At the time, he claimed he had done it as a joke and had not realized what the consequences might be. He withdrew that claim today, after repeated warnings from Recorder Nicholas Cooke telling him a substantial sentence would follow and despite offers to adjourn the case for a full jury trial.

The summer violence in the UK started after the fatal police shooting of a man in London and quickly spread to other cities, terrorizing the country for four straight nights, leaving five people dead. Nearly 3,000 people across the country were arrested for participating in the riots, almost half (some 1,300) of which were charged with riot-related offenses.

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