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19 August 2011

The public favour disproportionate riot sentences

81 per cent of the public believe the punishments are either "about right" or "too soft".

By George Eaton

As the prison sentences handed down to rioters come under attack from the Lib Dems and from some legal professionals, it’s worth noting that the public, as ever, take a different view.

A YouGov poll in today’s Sun found that 81 per cent believe the punishments are either “about right” (49 per cent) or “too soft” (32 per cent). Asked about the absurd decision to jail Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan for four years for (unsuccessfully) inciting disorder on Facebook, 57 per cent said the sentence was “about right”, 12 per cent said it was “too soft” and just 25 per cent said it was “too harsh”. Then again, given that 33 per cent of the public supported the use of live ammunition on the rioters, the figures aren’t as surprising as they may appear.

It’s hard to see David Cameron forcing Ken Clarke to sacrifice even more of his justice reforms but the coalition’s plan to close 2,500 prisons is increasingly at odds with his “zero tolerance” rhetoric. The Justice Secretary, who has just resumed his holiday, will need all of his political guile to avoid another humiliating U-turn.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that one of the most disproportionate sentences handed down last week – the jailing of a mother for five monthas for accepting a pair of looted shorts – has just been quashed by a judge.

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