The legal response to last summer’s riots continues and the Ministry of Justice has just released more official figures.
The crown prosecution service, the legal body responsible for bringing criminals to trial, is currently processing 450 more defendants. More are coming in all the time as police sift through hundreds of hours’ worth of CCTV footage.
On average, a further twelve cases are processed each week by a unit set up in August last year to deal specifically with the riots cases.
So far, 2,710 people have stood trial for alleged offenses and 1,483 have been found guilty – an 83% conviction rate. This is largely due to the high quality of the evidence available and defendants electing to plead guilty in the hope of a shorter sentence. Even so, 945 of those convicted have been sent to prison.
Magistrates and judges are taking a hard line with defendants, sentencing many to immediate custody with average terms lasting more than a year. The punishments imposed reflect the seriousness of the crime.
In a particularly serious case that concluded last month, Gordon Thompson (34) was convicted for the Reeves store arson and sent to prison for eleven and a half years. His actions had destroyed a family business and landmark in Croydon.
Civil rights campaigners are still mounting an active campaign to ensure that those accused of rioting are dealt with fairly. They warn against a knee-jerk reaction from the judiciary in the face of political pressure. Some appeals have been launched against lengthy sentences but many have not been successful.
According to the Court of Appeal, the second highest court in the land, the law considers taking part in a riot to be more serious than committing an offence in isolation.
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