This week two men have had the (face)book thrown at them following the organisation of events on the social networking site. Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan saw what was going on across the country and decided that they needed a piece of the action. They set up respective events, one named â€˜Smash Down in Northwich Town’ and the other simply â€˜The Warrington Riots’. They were then apprehended and charged. Both received 4 years for inciting disorder. The 4 years they received has put them ahead of all other rioters/looters charged for last week’s chaos.
However the sentences handed out by Chester Crown Court have been met with criticism, which is surprising when one considers the low public opinion of those involved with the riots and the early calls for stern punishments. The problem lies in the fact that neither of the planned events ever actually took place. In a sense the two men have been banged up for four years each for planning trouble that never happened. There are other reports of people being arrested and police being mobilised as a result of social networking activity. On a number of occasions the police have suggested that they were able to prevent trouble by finding planned events online and beating the perpetrators to the area concerned, thus diffusing the situation before it has happened.
So, to answer the question put forward last week; technology, in the form of social media, is an unexpected friend of the state. As the dust begins to settle it has become clear that social networking, an area in which criminals thought they were safe, has actually played a larger role in finding and charging Â those responsible, than organising the criminal activity in the first place. The crux of the matter is that a large number of rioters/looters/protesters were stupid enough to think that for some reason the state has no way of finding out what they are up to online. In fact, Facebook and similar sites provide the state with a profile of potential criminals; recent photographs, pictures of people they know, a list of friends and information on where they spend their time.
The job of the police becomes easier when looters show us their IQ’s are even lower than first thought by posting pictures of themselves with their ill-gotten gains on their profiles.
What people need to understand is that if you make an event called ‘Smash Down in Northwich Town’ you will be arrested/charged and rightly so, although the Judge may have got slightly carried away with the sentencing.