Two Facebook users have been sentenced to four years in prison for allegedly using the social networking Web site to organize looting and mob violence in connection with last week's London riots.
However, both of the plotters were unsuccessful in their efforts. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, created an event called "Smash Down in Northwich Town" on Aug. 8 to which he reportedly invited more than 100 friends. The Guardian reports that the only people to show up at the appointed meeting place - which was outside of a local McDonalds restaurant - were the police officers who arrested him.
Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, also caused a wave of panic after he posted a link to a page called "The Worthington Riots" on his Facebook account. No disorder occurred as a result and Sutcliffe-Keenan reportedly apologized for his actions after he removed the link and said it was a joke.
Although the judge who presided over the pair at Chester crown court was told both defendants were previously of good character, The Guardian reports that he said Blackshaw had committed an "evil act" and sentenced him to four years in a young offenders' institution. Similarly, he said Sutcliffe-Keenan had caused panic and put a strain on police resources in Warrington, which he said also warranted a tough sentence.
Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan were among many in the UK who were met with jail time for minor offences following the worst unrest England has seen in 30 years. One London man received six months in jail for stealing a case of water worth about $5 from a looted supermarket, while a Manchester mother of two was sentenced to five months in prison after wearing a pair of looted shoes her roommate had brought home, according to The Associated Press.
While some Briton's have criticized the lengthy sentences imposed on some convicted rioters, Prime Minister David Cameron has gone on record in support of the approach.
"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," he said.
Defense lawyers, civil rights groups and Liberal Democrats have all criticized what they are calling "disproportionate" sentences as official figures indicate that nearly 1,300 suspects have been brought before the courts. In an interview with BBC2'S Newsnight, the Liberal Democrats home affair spokesman, Tom Brake, said the people convicted would have received considerably lighter sentences if they had been arrested the day before the riots.
"This should be about restorative justice ... it should not be about retribution," he said.
More than 1,000 people in the UK have been charged with crimes in connection with the riots. The BBC reports the Metropolitan Police Force is aiming for 3,000 convictions over the disorder.