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   Inside Out - South: Monday February 28, 2005

SENSE IN SENTENCES?

Police at the scene of the riot
Trouble erupted after a match between Pompey and Saints

It's unusual to hear courts being criticised for treating people involved in football violence too harshly.

But professionals working inside the criminal justice system have spoken out about the way youngsters were locked up after a football riot in Portsmouth.

In all, 33 young people have been given custodial sentences for taking part in the street battles which followed the Pompey v Saints match in March 2004.

Most had been caught on camera throwing stones at the police.

Some of the young offenders had never been in trouble with the police before, but they were still given six month detention and training orders.

Custodial sentences

Philip Sutton, Head of Wessex Youth Offending Team, says that he has never dealt with so many custodial sentences.

"In general young people are allowed to make one mistake and they get a reprimand or a final warning from the police before they go into the court process," he said.

"We recognise that kids make mistakes and it does seem to me that a number of these young people for their very first mistake found themselves in prison, basically, with some quite hardened offenders."

The Wessex Youth Offending Team (WYOT) is made up of social workers, probation officers and police officers.

They felt so strongly about the case, they took the unusual step of organising a meeting for the young offenders and their families.

Concerns

Philip Sutton
"In our view there are other punishments in the community that would have been much more effective."
Philip Sutton, Head of Wessex Youth Offending Team

Philip Sutton told the meeting that he would be raising his concerns with the Chief Constable and with other colleagues working in the criminal justice system. He says;

"Was this in every case the sentence that was going to prevent young people from offending again? In our view.

"There are other punishments in the community that would have been much more effective".

A total of 95 people have now been convicted for taking part in the riot, more than for any other football-related incident.

All of those convicted have been banned from going to football and 85 of them have received custodial sentences.

The riot

Nick Hawkins
"I think that everyone has had a fair hearing."
Nick Hawkins, Head of Hampshire Crown Prosecution Service

Violence broke out after the game when Portsmouth fans tried to stop Saints supporters from leaving Fratton Park.

The police came under attack when they tried to move the Pompey supporters away from the ground.

Nick Hawkins, Head of Hampshire Crown Prosecution Service, says that the young people were all treated fairly.

"Everybody has had the opportunity to put forward their personal circumstances, the stage of schooling they are at, the effect on their families and the effect on them since the incident.

"I think that everyone has had a fair hearing and the opportunity to have everything looked at before sentences were passed," he insisted.

Improved behaviour

Mr Hawkins, who is a Portsmouth season ticket holder, says there has been a marked improvement in behaviour at Fratton Park this season.

"If they had been given a less serious sentence in the community, they might not have taken it as seriously and they might have been back at Fratton Park doing exactly the same."

Life behind bars

Janice Davis
"The courts would have been better served giving Ryan community service."
Janice Davis, Mother of one of the offenders

Ryan Davis has just been released after spending three months in a Young Offenders' Institute. He was 15 at the time of the riot and had never been in trouble before, but he was caught on camera throwing six stones at the police.

He says that one of his fellow inmates had been given exactly the same sentence for stabbing somebody in the throat.

"They all thought I was in for GBH," he says. "When they found out I was in for throwing stones they couldn't believe it.

"I know I should have been punished for what I have done, and I am sorry, but I shouldn't have been sent to prison".

His mum, Janice Davis, says that the punishment didn't fit the crime, "The courts would have been better served giving Ryan community service where he could have paid something back to society".

Police response

Hampshire Police described the riot as a violent and sustained attack on the police and the local community.

"Whether these people throw one missile or 10 missiles, they are all guilty of violent disorder," says Sgt Gary Cable.

"Any person involved could quite easily have turned around and walked away. They all stayed together for the sole purpose of disrupting the local community."

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Hampshire
Constabulary

Wessex Youth Offending Team
Southampton Football Club
Portsmouth Football Club

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

M Sargent
I cannot believe the bias of the programme towards these common criminals. It was bad enough having to listen to the bleating parents whinging on about the severity of the sentences handed out to their little darlings, who would never have normally harmed a fly, without also having to watch most of the programme being devoted to their attempts to justify why their offspring had received too harsh a sentence in the first place. Their time would be better spent thinking about the punishments that THEY should also be handing out when their children are finally realised from the institutions to which they were quite rightly sent. Were there any tears for the victims of the stone throwers? Everybody these days will happily quote their "rights" chapter and verse, but are often none to keen to own up to their responsibilities or for their actions. Perhaps the sentences were meant to deter future hooligans; hopefully they will do. Well done the CPS and the Court system.

janice davis
You all say the punishment fits the crime, then what I say as the parent that if the courts give these sentences for throwing stones at any time then fine, but being made an example of is not how our criminal justice system works. I did not condone the behaviour but other sentencing methods would be more effective for some of the lads caught up in the riot, yes he could of walked away but did not and he has paid very heavily for his actions. Think today to the man today jailed for 2 months for drunk driving, no licence, tax or insurance and killing the lad, how can I justify my son getting 6 months and this man only receiving 2 months. Our point was that the system is unfair, and Nick Hawkins must of been sat in a different court room to me as the boys WERE NOT treated as individuals.

Simon
Two days on from the broadcast, and you've published 15 comments in favour of the way the offences were handled by the Police, CPS, Courts and judges. Have you not even received one comment in agreement with the tone of your piece? What does that tell you?

Anne Walker
I just couldn't believe what I was watching. These boys deserve everything they got. It doesn't matter whether they "only threw 3 stones" or not, the point was they broke the law and they have to pay the penalty. If you behave yourself in life then you don't get punishments. Listening to the parents complain made my blood boil, what did they expect, the boys to get a slap on the wrist! Shame on you BBC for appearing to condone such behaviour.

Frank Sattler, Winchester
I find it quite astonishing that the WYOT is complaining about what they perceive as harsh sentencing. Small shop keepers are forced to close up shop (and lose out on trade !) whilst their front windows and glass doors are being replaced, and people living on the streets where the violence took place are terrified and have their cars and other property demolished (I for one wouldn't have set a foot outside while this was going on). These criminals who see a mob throwing stones at police and join in "because it's a bit of a laugh" have the same attitude as the yobs who turn the South's town centres into no-go areas on weekends after the pubs close. They did this only because they thought they could get away with it. They were wrong and got what they deserved. One father complained that his son was led away in handcuffs - his son is a criminal. He was treated like one, and rightly so. If it happened more often, law-abiding citizens might actually feel safe in the street again, because these thugs would think twice before displaying violent behaviour.

j.cassidy
I could not believe that the BBC had sunk to the level of the street, until I saw the programme where they supported the actions of the street rioters. All of us who live in the real world and try to cope with mindless vandalism/thuggery by young adolecents, I am sure supported the police, CPS and magistrates in their action.

Pearl Simmons
I am infuriated that Inside Out carried this article about minors receiving inappropriate sentences for the riot in Portsmouth. For once the Police had the evidence to prosecute individuals and the courts handed out sentences to reflect the crime. If minors choose to be involved in serious crime involving throwing missiles that have caused significant damage to property and had the potential to cause injury then they should expect the matter to be taken seriously by the courts. I would highlight that the Police are only responsible for collecting evidence it is the courts that considered this sentences were appropriate. I am so tired of parents who refuse to acknowledge the wrong doing of their children and plead "my child wouldn't do that" when there is video evidence of thieir crimes. One aspect that was missed from the article was that the sentences will act as a very strong deterrent. I wish to back up the Police in this instance and the courts and would prefer that articles such as this are not aired as I do not feel they reflect the majority of the community that are sick and tired of crime committed by the minority which in so many cases is not followed up by the Police and if it is ridiculous sentences are handed out by the courts. For once the right balance was achieved.

Richard Greene
It Makes my blood boil,watching & listening to those parents winging on about their poor children getting punished for the crimes they have commited, it really takes my breath away and I found myself shouting at the television, I really could not believe what I was hearing. Unbelievable.. We really must get tough on these young hooligans and make an example of them. Football is a sport to be enjoyed and not an event where one feels threatend. Organised gangs of young thugs abound purley to cause violent disruptions at football events. This must be stopped. There is no excuse. Stones. Bricks. Coins. Whatever. Its time the authoroties got tough and let these people know that this sort of outrages behaviour will not be tolerated at any price. It has been going on for far to long. They have my full support.

Simon
All of the people you featured could have walked away from the riot and avoided any action. They were filmed throwing stones - have you ever been on the other end of a stone or another missile - and would you be happy if they had hit a child, perhaps? The police cameras only filmed one lad three stones, but had he committed other crimes not recorded on camera or not showing his face? The police simply presented the evidence to court - they have no control over sentancing, nor do the CPS. Independant judges decide sentances, and they clearly saw evidence that had to be punished. Law abiding football fans are no problem, but large groups of people hell-bent on injuring others by throwing missiles, especially at police officers, must expect all that the courts award them.

Deborah Edmonds
I am very angry about your biased story on the Portsmouth v Southampton match last March. I attended that match and found the rioting to be both terrifying and very upsetting. The people involved in these riots had no respect or regard for anyone else and they deserved everything they got. The mother interviewed on the programme who talked about her son being jailed for throwing 6 stones - what if one of those stones had taken someones eye out or worse ? Also, the majority of these hooligans were NOT Portsmouth fans - a very small percentage were season ticket holders - so what were they all doing out on the street ? The lad in question was only 15 years of age - had he been to the pub drinking with the rest of the 'gang' ? Did they deserve to get 'named and shamed' - YES they did.

Alan Chapman
There is an old saying, "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime". Just because nobody was badly hurt does not alter the fact that somebody could have been and there would have been little way of identifying the actual culprit. What about the disruption to local business? What about the terror felt by local residents? Who ever cares about the victims? If these so called children had been properly brought up there would be no reason for them to be jailed. I was no angel as a child but I knew right from wrong. For some people the police can do no right. One man said that the police spent 10 minutes filming and wanted to know why they did not just move the crowd on. I have no doubt that had the police moved in and tried to disburse the crowd, that man would have been complaining of over zealous policing and wanting to know why the police had taken action when no crime had been commited.

Nick Hunter
I have just watched your one-sided report with absolute horror. For years the British public have had to watch as our good name is ruined both at home and abroad by football hooligans. The boys mentioned in the report deserve all they got. The boy you focussed on, who had "only thrown 3 stones", threw those stones at officers of the law. They should be taught some respect fo rthe law and for those officers who literally put their life on the line at such sporting events. What would your report have said to his family if one of those stones had killed or seriously injured a policeman... oh don't worry they didn't mean it.

Mike Jackson
Found your piece on the disturbance after the Portsmouth-Southampton game very unsettling. I agree wholeheartedly with Hampshire Police and find your stance in this matter to be quite astonishing. These people were there to cause trouble and no more, their sentences will show that there is not a place for acts such as this in society. The parents show the usual lack of perspective about their little darlings and hopefully this will be a lesson for them both.

peter/ fareham
They deserved the sentences that they got,the sentences should have been longer. Perhaps they might learn something now and respect the law

Scott Craig
Obtaining a shield and ammunition is a calculated criminal act. They set out to destroy property and hit police and rival fans. I congratulate the judges in this case. Prison was the correct step. I cannot understand the parents who said that their kids did not deserve this. Rubbish. These criminals could have left the scene - they KNEW it was a riot situation. If my children were ever in that situation and got a six month sentence, I'd make sure that they would serve the six months. If they got released after 3 months by the Crown, I would personally work them myself for the remaining three. All these criminals now see is their parents giving law abiding civil servants a hard time, and making excuses for their behaviour. I fear for the generation that these criminals will eventually themselves produce.

mrs Irene Fountain
well done to the police for taking the action they did, I think the parents would have been the first to complain if stone had been thrown at there cars and windows. kids today think that it's fun to cause harm to others and there property. Football is not a family outing any more it's just a excuse for a punch up

Bob Coombs
I fully support the police and courts in giving the 6 month sentences to the football hooligans from the portsmouth / southampton football match. we accept that football breeds this type of thuggery but if any trouble happened outside say a motorcycle meeting the public would be up in arms and call for a ban.

Jeff Cornwall
I think the article on the proramme just now was an absolute disgrace. Everyone knows how dangerous it is to throw missiles at ther people.Perhaps if judges were more servere more often people wouldn't be frightened to go out onto the streets at night.Zero tolerance.



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