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Teenagers jailed for three years for encouraging riot in Scottish city

Two teenagers who admitted to attempting to organise a riot in Dundee via Facebook while similar events were taking place in England have each been jailed for three years, according to press reports.13 Dec 2011

Shawn Divin and Jordan McGinley were involved with an event page on the social networking website inviting others to loot shops, attack police and bring guns to Dundee city centre on 17 August. The two were arrested before any rioting could take place.

The "Riot in the Toon" page, which was viewed by more than 2,000 people, was created during the summer's period of social unrest during which English cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham witnessed scenes of vandalism, looting and fire-raising.

Sheriff Elizabeth Munro described the case as "one of the worst breaches of the peace I have dealt with", according to a report in the Scotsman newspaper.

The newspaper said that Divin was given an extra 12 months for breaching a probation order, plus an additional three months for committing the offence while on bail.

Sheriff Munro said that the "context" in which the crime was committed "hugely aggravated" its seriousness.

"The crime committed by each accused was not committed in isolation. It was committed when there was widespread lawlessness in cities and towns in England and each accused... intended to contribute to or aggravate that lawlessness by causing it to spread to Scotland - and to Dundee in particular - at a time when disorder in England was at its peak," she said.

"A total of 221 people said they would attend the riot event in Dundee – and what made your actions particularly serious was that you both referred to weapons, and Mr McGinley you referred to guns."

The newspaper said that messages posted on the page encouraged those attending to "kill some f****** daftys" and "show the English how it's really done".

Other messages posted on Divin's own Facebook page suggested that attendees bring guns and take police "oot the game".

Courts in England have already sentenced people to jail sentences after posting comments on Facebook that could have led to a riot, even though no public disorder actually took place.

McGinley's solicitor said that the event page had been set up by another teenager who would be dealt with separately as he was not yet 16. He had urged the sheriff not to put an "emotional slant" on events.

However Sheriff Munro said that "modern technology" had been a "sinister feature" of the riots.

At the time of the riots, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Government would investigate whether "it would be right to stop people communicating via [social networking websites] when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality". However, following a meeting between ministers, police and representatives of social networks, the Government said it was not looking to introduce new banning powers.

Claire McCracken, technology expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that it came as no surprise that the court handed down custodial sentences in these cases.

"Although these sentences may seem harsh, they serve to act as a deterrent. It is so easy to use a platform like social media to reach out to a huge audience. Inciting such behaviour is just as serious as actually participating and the courts want to get this message across. These sentences may now make people think twice about what they post on social media platforms, McCracken said".

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