Due to the recent riots in the United Kingdom, both police and politicians have faced harsh criticism. Citizens were upset with the way the riots were handled, creating an immense amount of tension between the government and the police. Four police chiefs have even made public attacks on prime minister David Cameron’s law-and-order agenda. On top of that, there have been disagreements among everyone about the punishments given to convicted rioters.
Some of the punishments seem reasonable, such as the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s ”riot payback scheme,” in which offenders will wear orange jumpsuits and help clean up areas that were destroyed by the riots. Rioters will also be confronted by their victims, whose neighborhoods, homes and businesses were destroyed. Mr. Clegg felt that “they should have to see for themselves the consequences of their actions and they should be put to work cleaning up the damage and destruction they have caused so they don’t do it again.”
Other punishments seem excessive and unjust, such as the four-year sentences given to Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22. They were charged with inciting disorder, even though the riots they tried to plan over Facebook never even happened. Neither Blackshaw or Sutcliffe-Keenan were accused of rioting or looting themselves, but for some odd reason, they were given the lengthiest sentences as of this writing. Those actually responsible for burning down and destroying neighborhoods were only sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Blackshaw, set up an event entitled “Smash Down Northwich Town,” and Sutcliffe-Keenan created the page, “Let’s Have a Riot in Latchford.” Even though neither of these events happened and probably weren’t anything more than a prank gone wrong, communities secretary Eric Pickles feels the four-year prison sentence is necessary, telling BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, “we need to understand that people for a while thought that this was a crime without consequence.” The Prime Minister also supported the tough sentences saying that “what happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behavior and to send a very clear message that it’s wrong and won’t be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing.”
While they both make valid points, perhaps a less severe punishment would have sufficed and still sent a clear message that what they did, no matter the intentions, was wrong and won’t be tolerated. Rulings like this might be one of the many reasons the riots happened in the first place. While most citizens agree that Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan shouldn’t get off scot-free, spending four years in jail for making a Facebook event while those who actually burnt down and destroyed neighborhoods only get six months seems extremely unfair. This kind of injustice only causes more anger toward the government, thereby creating a higher chance of riots. With the relationship between the United Kingdom’s police and government already on edge, more riots are the last thing the they need.