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UK pair jailed for using social media to incite riots

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Facebook riot inciters get jail time
  • Police and politicians say social networks were used to coordinate trouble
  • A court hopes the four-year jail terms will deter others
  • More than 1,300 people have been charged in England over last week's unrest
  • London and other cities have remained calm since a huge police deployment

London (CNN) -- Two men have been jailed for four years each in northwest England for inciting disorder via social networking sites, as rioting and looting erupted in London and other cities last week, police said Tuesday.

The pair, who were arrested last week, were named by Cheshire Police as Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22.

Neither of their Facebook posts resulted in any rioting, a Cheshire Police spokeswoman said.

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.

Handing down their sentence at Chester Crown Court, Judge Elgan Edwards said he hoped it would serve as a deterrent to others.

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.

Social media's role in the UK riots

Many courts have used fast-track procedures to bring suspects to justice.

Police and politicians have pointed to social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook as well as mobile messaging services, as tools used to organize looting and violence.

Cheshire Police 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 recognized the impact of the situation on our communities and the way in which social media was being used to promote and incite behavior that would strike fear into the hearts of our communities."

Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament on Thursday that "when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them."

The government was working with the police and intelligence services, he said, "to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."

England's cities have remained calm for the past week after a massive police deployment on the streets, but officers continue to make arrests based on security camera images and intelligence.

Police in London said they had arrested a 31-year-old man Tuesday on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with an incident in which two officers were bowled over by a vehicle, as they chased looters last week. Both were injured.

The man handed himself in to police after footage of the incident was released by detectives, the Metropolitan Police Service said.

The disorder has prompted questions over Britain's society, its approach to policing and planned cuts to police funding.

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.

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.

CNN's Bharati Naik and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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