Harsher sentences for riot and non-riot cases in after mouth of disturbances a worrying sign for legal system

CRIMINAL lawyer Oliver Gardner is voicing his concern after a recent report found that rioters faced significantly harsher sentences if convicted within two weeks of the riots.

The report by the Manchester Evening News discovered that those convicted within a fortnight of the riots received sentences on average 30% longer than those sentenced after two weeks had elapsed.

Gardner, managing partner of Manchester criminal law firms Howards Solicitors, which is handling a number of riot related cases, comments: “The Courts must be objective in their judgements.  These findings lead to the suspicion that the groundswell of, perhaps understandable, public and political feeling has probably influenced the legal system when it should have resisted such pressure.”

Gardner states one instance where a judge exclaimed “bad timing” when a more severe than expected sentence was handed down.

Gardner also notes that non-riot related offences seem to have also been influenced by the climate of outrage at the time: “We have had motoring law offences that would rarely, if ever, carry a custodial sentence, but were treated with particular severity.  One case involved a young girl with an otherwise blameless history starting out on her career and the other a serviceman recognised for gallantry – neither offence posed a physical danger to the public.”

“The legal system needs to work in all situations or it will be undermined and confidence lost.  It is a worrying development that it appears to have not been as resistant to outside pressures as it should have.”