Were Non-Rioting Jordan Blackshaw And Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan Jailed For Facebook Thought Crimes?
HAVE Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, been jailed for thought crimes? Are they lyrical terrorists, like the woman who wrote about killing kaffirs as she worked at WH Smiths? Samina Malik was given a nine-month suspended jail sentence and later cleared.
These two men have been sentenced to four years jail. Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan, both from Cheshire, admitted using Facebook to plan a riot. No-one responded to their online call. They triggered no riot (unlike them).
Judge Elgan Edwards, QC, the Recorder of Chester Crown Court calls the men’s actions “evil”.
Is that a bit strong? Were the riots – or even thinking about rioting – the work of the Devil?
Blackshaw had created a Facebook group called “Smash Down Northwich Town”. Sutcliffe-Keenan Warrington created a page called “Let’s have a riot in Latchford”. The two men did know each other – which suggests there is a limit to social networking.
Were it not for the ensuing riots elsewhere, both Facebook page titles might well be seen as humorous. Let’s Have A Riot in Latchford sounds like the title of a film by the Comic Strip presents, the 1980s comedy group that gave us Five Go Mad in Dorst and its sequel Five Got Mad On Mescalin.
Phil Thompson, the Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire, says the sentences send out a “strong message”. Indeed it does. It tells us that after the mayhem the police are good at looking tough.
Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, is less pleased:
“The public disturbances are seen as an aggravating factor and that is fair enough, as clearly there are times when the justice system has to be seen to respond to public concern. But there seems to be a complete lack of proportionality to some of the sentences. These make a mockery of proportionality, which is a key principle of the justice system.”
The other element in this story is the role of Facebook. Are they watching their users? The official line is that Sutcliffe-Keenan and Blackshaw were caught when members of the public saw their messages and told police. But do we believe that?