In the Media

Manchester rioter's sentence is halved

PUBLISHED October 6, 2011

Joshua Penney, 17, has detention and training order reduced to four months on appeal The detention of a 17-year-old rioter has been upheld by an appeal judge but his sentence was halved. Joshua Penney was swept along by "mob mentality" as he joined others in entering a Sainsbury's store that had been smashed open by looters on the night of the widespread disorder in Manchester city centre on 9 August. As staff cowered in a locked back room, the defendant joined others who helped themselves to cigarettes and alcohol. Penney, a drama student from Chorlton, Manchester, was immediately followed into the store by police officers who caught him with a bottle of alcohol in his hands. He put the drink down and was arrested. He pleaded guilty to burglary on his first appearance in youth court and was later sentenced by magistrates to an eight-month detention and training order, of which half would be served in a young offenders' institution. In an appeal at Manchester crown court his legal team argued that the sentence was excessive and should have been dealt with by a community penalty in the form of a youth referral order, in which no time would have been served in custody. Judge Michael Henshell, sitting with two magistrates, rejected that argument but ruled the length of the detention and training order was "too long" and halved it to four months. Penney, who has no previous convictions, has already served six weeks in custody and now faces two weeks more. Henshell said it was a "significant fact" that many of those who had come before the courts for offences committed in the riots had either no previous or comparatively minor convictions. "That seems to demonstrate with striking clarity the division between people who are sensible, law abiding and do not go through life committing offences, and ? in a manner of a very short time because of mob mentality in the city centre at this time ? those who were drawn into offences such as this," he said. The judge said Penney was a young man who had a difficult start in life and had done well since, but was "dragged into these offences by the mentality of the mob around him". He had been in the company of an older, "more sophisticated" man with 15 previous convictions who was also arrested in the store. Henshell said: "This is not a case that should have been dealt with by way of a referral order but we are of the view that the order was too long. We are satisfied the sentence should have been four months of detention and training." Helen Richardson, defending, said her client was understood to be a "gifted young man" and that his headteacher had spoken of him as "polite, respectful, conscientious" and "an absolute pleasure". Penney had found himself in a situation he was unfamiliar with and was swept along with the crowd, she said. He was assessed as being a medium risk in terms of vulnerability when he entered custody but is now suffering from "extreme anxiety" and struggling to sleep, the court heard. Reporting restrictions were lifted on naming Penney at the original magistrates' court hearing. Four other defendants, one 15, two 17 and one now 18, were also scheduled to appeal against their sentences on Thursday but these will now be dealt with after the upcoming judgment by the court of appeal on 10 other cases involving adult defendants jailed for committing crimes during August's civil disorder. UK riots Youth justice Young people UK criminal justice © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds