17 Aug 2011

Civil rights concerns at extent of UK sentences

10:45 pm on 17 August 2011

Civil rights groups in Britain have expressed concern over what they see as harsh sentences handed down to those involved in last week's riots.

The ABC reports the Howard League for Penal Reform criticised some sentences for being disproportionate to the crimes committed.

Two men have been jailed for four years for inciting disorder on the social network site Facebook, even though no-one responded to their online calls to riot.

Another man was given 18 months for having a stolen television set in his car.

The former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Paul Mendelle, says courts are in danger of being influenced by the public mood.

But police, judges and government ministers say sentences need to send a strong message that public disorder will not be tolerated.

So far 2,770 people have been arrested in connection with the riots that began in London but quickly spread to other cities and towns.