Appeal judges attacked the approach to the sentencing of rioters taken by Judge Andrew Gilbart, the Recorder of Manchester. Following the August riots, Gilbart at Manchester Crown Court said the sentencing guidelines could ‘could properly be departed from’ because the riots were ‘completely outside the usual context of criminality’.
Lord Judge, Lord Justice Leveson and Lord Justice Thomas were looking at appeals by ten people involved in last month’s riots. If other crown courts had circulated alternative tariffs for various crimes it would have been a ‘recipe for chaos’ in the judicial system, the lord chief justice, Lord Judge warned.
Nine men and one woman were appealing against (in the words of their lawyers) the ‘manifestly excessive’ length of their custodial sentences. None challenged their convictions. Two of the appellants, Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, posted notices on Facebook inviting people to participate in riots in their home towns. Both received four years in prison.
Their judgment was not handed down but all three judges were critical of the Recorder of Manchester. Lord Justice Thomas accused Gilbart of drawing up what were ‘in reality guidelines’ through his outspoken judgment. Lord Justice Leveson, chairman of the Sentencing Council, said that by suggesting ranges for riot-related offences, Gilbart had done ‘something which not even this court does’.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award