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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free the Facebook Two

Free the Facebook Two

Facebook riot calls earn men four-year jail terms amid sentencing outcry

Jordan Blackshaw, left, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, both pleaded guilty to using Facebook in attempts to fuel riots in Cheshire. They have been jailed for four years

Incitement to violence is a serious offence and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. So, 4 years is at the lower end of the scale. Nevertheless, no violence occured. It is a case of the fear of violence being greater than the actual act. There was the potential for violence but it did not materialise in reality. When Judge Elgan Edwards QC said Blackshaw had committed an "evil act", I think of the devil. However, I believe that it was not so much an evil as a stupid act. And 4 years for stupidity is more than a bit steep. Judge Elgan Edwards QC said "This happened at a time when collective insanity gripped the nation". And it would appear that in passing such a sentence the judge has gone along with this collective insanity. It begs the question, 'Has Judge Elgan lost his marbles?'.

The man beneath the wig

Sep 5 2003 Kevin Hughes Chester Chronicle

Judge Elgan Edwards, honorary recorder for Chester, discusses his work, society and the criminal justice system in an exclusive interview with Kevin Hughes.

Judge Elgan Edwards sits behind a desk in his modestly furnished Chester Crown Court chambers and exudes an air of quiet authority. His desk is piled high with meticulously prepared court files and legal papers all readied for the day's court business.

It's 10am and in half-an-hour he will don his robes and wig and take his seat high above the court room floor from where nothing escapes his keen gaze.

He's studying court files, yet every few minutes there's a new knock on his door as court clerks bring requests for guidance from defence or prosecuting counsel.

On each occasion Judge Edwards listens carefully and comes to a decision quickly. He speaks in soft, rich tones, his accent still bearing a hint of his Welsh ancestry, as he delivers his verdict, as the headmaster of a typical grammar school might have done in years gone by.

The son of a Rhyl shopkeeper, who was also a magistrate, he says he simply drifted into the legal profession. Educated at Rhyl Grammar School, he studied law at Aberystwyth's University College Wales.

After completing a correspondence course with Gray's of London he was called to the bar in 1967 and began as a junior barrister in Chester a year later.

Now appointed as the Honorary Recorder for Chester he has responsibility for a Crown Court circuit which includes the courts of Mold, Caernarfon, Warrington and Knutsford. And, as a senior judge, he now sits at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey for one session a year as well as hearing cases at London's Court of Appeal.

But what are his views on today's criminal justice system?

I begin by asking him about the jury system and whether reforms are needed so juries, in particular in fraud cases, are selected from professions that perhaps have the skills to understand the evidence before them.

His reply is instant. 'I am a fan of the jury system. No system is perfect and there are difficulties mainly because we require people to come out of their normal lives to sit on a jury. That's fine for maybe a week or two weeks but not so good if it's three or six months.

'And certainly as far as I'm concerned, and many of my colleagues as well, if you have got somebody who is a shopkeeper or a teacher, or someone whose work is vital to a particular business then we are sympathetic.'

He added: 'As to the point about juries not understanding, I think, on the whole, they do understand. And if they don't, it's not their fault. It's the fault of the lawyers and the judge for not making it clear.

'If you get a case, however complicated, and you cut it down to the bare minimum, the issues, however complex, are normally relatively straightforward.

And it's up to the lawyers and the judge to make it clear what the issues are so they can decide.'

But would Judge Edwards still like to see juries in special cases such as serious frauds, made up of, perhaps, accountants? He said: 'No I wouldn't. I think if you are not careful you end up with the whole thing dealt with in far too expert a manner. I believe you bring in ordinary people who have got common sense and knowledge of the world. They decide, has this person been dishonest or not.'

He added: 'I don't see what the alternative is. I don't favour judges deciding issues. I think it's a very good mental discipline for a judge to sum up the evidence at the end of a complicated case and make it clear what the issues are.'

Controversially, he said made a case for previous convictions being put before the jury.

'A defendant's previous convictions ought to go before a jury if they are relevant and subject to the judge being able to say, 'I don't think it would be fair in this case'.

Judge Edwards said: 'It just seems to be ridiculous. Say you have got a rape case and the defendant has a previous conviction for rape and the issue is consent. Well the jury don't know that man has a previous conviction for rape. It doesn't mean to say he's guilty this time. But if you are employing someone for a job and you are putting him or her in a position of trust it's relevant to know he's got a previous conviction for theft. 'It's common sense isn't it? It doesn't mean he's going to steal again but it's only right that when making your decision to employ him you know he's got this previous conviction. I would say that same principle ought to apply to juries in criminal trials.'

I asked Judge Edwards if he had any frustrations over his sentencing powers. He said: 'The frustration I feel sometimes is the fact the sentences you give are not actually the sentences served. I do think that is a problem. I had a very sad letter, and I will not talk about individual cases, from a mother of a child who'd been killed by a very bad piece of driving.

'I sentenced however long it was before I got this very sad letter to say he's out already. And asking how can this be justice? You see in the paper someone gets four years, five years or whatever but what they actually serve is half perhaps.'

I ask Judge Edwards if he gets frustrated at the number of cases coming before his courts which feature illicit drugs. He said: 'I think drugs are the curse of society today and anyone who says otherwise is deluding themselves. I believe legalising cannabis is a dangerous avenue to go along. I can see the arguments but I think it's dangerous.'

He added: 'Legalise cannabis and what do you do about ecstasy, what do you do about heroin?'

Is Judge Edwards happy with the Crown Prosecution Service I ask? He said: 'By and large we are fortunate to have a good Crown Prosecution Service in this area and good Chief Crown Prosecutors and I think things have improved greatly.

Around the country we hear criticism but certainly we don't have many problems here.'


Man jailed for Facebook incitement to riot to appeal

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are a clown!
these guys tried to orchastrate a riot

its just lucky that no one turned up.

The motive was still the same, stupidity cannot be an excuse for this.