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London Riots: Does The Punishment Fit The Crime?

Originally published on August 18, 2011 8:30 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Good morning.

PAUL LEWIS: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What are examples of some other sentences that have struck people there as too harsh?

LEWIS: So there is a real range in inconsistency, which has concerned people. I mean, another standout case is one involving a man who stole bottles of water from the supermarket. Now, they amounted to around $5. And he received six months in jail as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday the judges were trying to send a - as he put it - tough message. How are people reacting to that message? Because there was widespread revulsion throughout England about the rioting, and most particularly the looting.

LEWIS: But we're seeing something change now, and I think there has been a bit of a turning point, with senior members of the government and the judiciary starting to voice concern that what we don't want to see is a replication of the kind of mob mentality on the street in the courts.

MONTAGNE: Although, of course, there are already appeals flooding in on some of these sentences.

LEWIS: Absolutely. And I think the one case which really stood out more than any other was the one you mentioned previously. It involved - I mean there were actually two cases in the same area. Both were young men who had used Facebook to create, you know, Facebook pages. We've all seen them. And these contained instructions or incitement for other people to participate in rioting. Now, the riots didn't actually happen. They never took place.

MONTAGNE: The rioting that was called for by these couple of couple of guys on Facebook.

LEWIS: But the difficulty here is because of the length of term of some of these sentences, by the time the appeal reaches the court they will have already served that sentence.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much.

LEWIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.