Two young British men who used their Facebook accounts to incite and encourage rioting and looting in their town have been sentenced to four years in prison, in one of the harshest sentences yet delivered in connection with the civil disturbances that spread across the country.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, of Marston, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Warrington, were convicted in Chester Crown Court, following their arrests last week for violent disorder.

Blackshaw had created a Facebook "event" called "Smash Down Northwich Town," and encouraged rioters to meet him behind a McDonald's restaurant. He wrote: “We'll need to get on this kickin' off all over.”

Northwich is a town in Cheshire, about 40 miles east of Liverpool.

Sutcliffe-Keenan reportedly created a similar event on Facebook called "Warrington Riots" and encouraged anyone to sign up and "riot."

Martin McRobb, Crown Advocate for CPS Mersey-Cheshire said: "These [Facebook] posts caused significant panic and revulsion in local communities as rumors of anticipated violence spread."

Judge Andrew Gilbart QC, who sentenced the men, warned that he was sending a “clear and unambiguous message” to potential future rioters and looters.

“The courts should show that outbursts of criminal behavior like this will and must be met with sentences longer than they would be if the offences had been committed in isolation,” he said.

“As a starting point, it seems to me inevitable that any adult offender [who took part in the riots] must expect to lose his or her liberty for a significant period.”

In addition, Assistant Chief Constable Phil Thompson said: "The sentences passed down today recognize how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity and sends a strong message to potential troublemakers about the extent to which ordinary people value safety and order in their lives and their communities.”