Analysis: Courts run through night for riot accused

Jon Brain reports on the rioters who are facing justice at Highbury Magistrates' Court

Four magistrates courts in London are sitting to process some of the hundreds of people charged in connection with the riots in the capital. The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman was at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court.

At Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court, in north London, the accused are a broad variety of people with different ethnic backgrounds and job profiles.

One case before the court on Wednesday morning was a man called Alexis Bailey, a 31-year-old who works at a primary school in Stockwell. He was found in an electrical goods store in Croydon on Monday and pleaded guilty to burglary.

His case was typical in that the magistrates, having heard the guilty plea, committed him for sentence at Crown Court.

The reason for that is they felt the riot was such an aggravating feature to the burglary that the Crown Court, with its additional powers, ought to pass sentence.

The magistrates could only impose a jail term of six months - at the Crown Court, that sentence could be up to 10 years.

They were committing to Crown Court in a large number of cases, giving an indication of the seriousness with which these offences are being treated.

CCTV pictures

Many, many people will be sentenced at Crown Court, although they will initially offer pleas in magistrates' court.

This could slow the process but a lot of guilty pleas are being entered - so the delay is simply that in relation to sentencing.

This morning, the Crown prosecutor had been on since 05:00 BST. The court had sat through the night.

He left and another Crown prosecutor then came in. We know others came out into the police control rooms, giving advice on charging after looking at CCTV pictures.

Things are being done at great speed. There may be a lag in terms of sentencing, but dealing with a lot of these cases, particularly with the large number of guilty pleas, is quick.

One man pleaded guilty to the theft of two Burberry T-shirts - a small amount in terms of monetary value - but the effect of a criminal conviction of that sort on a person's life and career is enormous.

And we are seeing a lot of those sort of low-value crimes, which are going to have a major effect on the lives of the people who committed those offences.

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