The courts have launched an onslaught against poor, working class people in the aftermath of the riots that swept British cities.
Police arrested more than 2,700 people—and 1,400 had been charged as Socialist Worker went to press.
Courts are hearing cases overnight and on Sundays.
Camberwell magistrate Novello Noades let slip that courts were ordered to send all rioters and looters to jail.
Court clerk Claire Luxford said “guidance” had gone out “saying that when sentencing guidelines were written no one envisaged events like these—and therefore they do not apply”.
This has meant harsh sentences for crimes normally considered minor.
A 23-year old electrical engineering student from south London, Nicholas Robinson, was jailed for six months for taking £3.50 worth of bottled water from Lidl.
Greater Manchester Police boasted about one case on Twitter: “Mum-of-two, not involved in disorder, jailed for FIVE months for accepting shorts looted from shop. There are no excuses!”
Ursula Nevin accepted the shorts as a gift from her flatmate.
Her children are aged one and five.
Another mother-of-two, Tracy O’Leary from east London, took home a bag of clothes she found under a bush in a park. She was jailed for 16 weeks for receiving stolen goods. Judge Williamson told her, “You jolly well ought to have known better”.
Two thirds of those who appeared before magistrates were denied bail until crown courts, which can give out harsher sentences, can hear their cases. This may take months.
“Of the large number of protesters who have been charged with violent disorder over the last few years none of them to my knowledge have been denied bail,” said campaigning lawyer Matt Foot.
“Two thirds of people from the riots have been denied bail after the politicians’ uproar.”
In Croydon, James Best and Sean Havens pleaded guilty to stealing cakes and biscuits from a bakery. Both are homeless. They were denied bail.
Dane Williamson, 18, of Salford, is accused of arson against a Miss Selfridge clothes store. His flat was torched by suspected vigilantes this week—showing the dangers of “name and shame”.
Dane says he is the victim of mistaken identity. If found guilty, he could face life imprisonment.