UK

Magistrates' courts in England work late for riot cases

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Media captionNick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister: "The priority is to make sure there is proper punishment meted out."

Several courts in England have been working through the night to fast track those already in custody for looting and disorder related offences.

Magistrates in London, Manchester and Solihull were processing some of those arrested over the incidents of the last four days.

The total number of people arrested in relation to riots which first started on Saturday stands at over 1,100.

An 11-year-old boy and a primary school worker have already appeared in court.

West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Phil Kay said working through the night was a first for Solihull and that it had "given us the opportunity to put before the courts the prisoners involved in the disorder in a really timely manner which helps speed up the judicial process."

On Wednesday night, a special sitting at Manchester Magistrates' Court saw three judges process individuals as it aimed to deal with the 117 defendants in custody.

Magistrates handled defendants in batches of three. Six cases were held in Court 16 over two hours.

One case dealt with was a 16-year-old boy who admitted trespassing at Swarowski jewellers in Manchester city centre with a view to steal.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, decided to go into the city centre after he received a Blackberry message saying "come to town". He was arrested as he attempted to flee the shop.

His mother was in court where she heard her son say he knew he was wrong and was "caught up in the moment" as he unsuccessfully tried to prise open a cabinet.

Adjourning the case for reports and granting bail, district judge Khalid Qureshi said: "The aggravating feature is he has responded to a message. It was pre-planned, it was organised. He has then gone there to meet people.

"He knew full well what was going on in the country. Somebody from the moon would be aware of what has been going on in the country.

"I am sure looking at the horror on his mum's face when she heard what he had done, it will not be a pleasant return home for him."

Threatening words

Blackberry Messenger featured in another case of a 20-year-old man from Stretford who was accused of attempting to break into the Argos store in Stretford Mall.

The court heard the incident was allegedly organised as he met up with a friend after he received a message via Blackberry for them to target the shop.

In a separate case, Owen Flanagan, 28, from Levenshulme, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary after he stole £75 worth of clothing from former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher's Pretty Green fashion boutique and two electrical items. He was jailed for eight months.

Image caption Alexis Bailey, a 31-year-old primary school worker, pleaded guilty to burglary

Also dealt with was Bernard Moore, 46, of Monsall, who pleaded guilty to using threatening words or behaviour likely to cause alarm or distress and assaulting a constable in the execution of their duty.

The defendant was said to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol as he shouted abuse at officers and tried to gouge out an officer's eye with his finger.

Mr Qureshi dismissed the defendant's claims it was a reckless assault rather than intentional and jailed him for 20 weeks.

Additional powers

Earlier on Wednesday, Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court dealt with cases including Alexis Bailey, a 31-year-old who works at a primary school in Stockwell who pleaded guilty to burglary after he was found in an electrical goods store in Croydon on Monday. He was committed to crown court for sentencing.

The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman, who was in court, said many were being committed for sentencing at the crown court instead of being sentenced by magistrates because magistrates felt the riot was such an aggravating feature to the burglary that the crown court ought to sentence because they have additional powers.

"The magistrates feel that they had insufficient powers to sentence for a single count of burglary. They could only sentence for six months whereas that could be up to 10 years at the crown court," he said.

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