Justices' clerks have advised magistrates in the UK to disregard normal sentencing rules when dealing with convicted offenders from last week's riots.
As the courts wade through an estimated 1,277 alleged criminal cases (to date), the directive has seen cases that would normally be dismissed in a magistrates court, be taken to the crown court for more severe punishment, reported the Guardian.
Of the 1,277 alleged offenders who have appeared before the courts, 700 have been remanded in custody, two-thirds of those cases in London.
In Chester Crown Court, a QC judge sentenced two men who posted messages on Facebook inciting others to riot to four years prison. The judge said the men had committed an "evil act" at a time when "collective insanity gripped the nation", despite no one turning up in either of the men's' targeted home towns (Northwich and Warrington) to riot.
In Manchester, a mother of two was jailed for five months for receiving a looted pair of shorts, and in Brixton, a 23 year-old student was jailed for six months for stealing $5.50 worth of water bottles.
Lawyers have criticised the "disproportionate" sentences being imposed and warned that a spate of appeals could follow.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has also called for juveniles found guilty of riot-related crimes to be named and shamed.
The youngest people to appear before the courts last week over the riots were 11 and 12 years of age.
The CPS said this will only be done on a case by case basis but that it was sometimes necessary and in the public interest to identify anonymous youth defenders after a conviction.
Sentencing advice from Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) circulated instructions to court clerks that they should advise magistrates to consider disregarding normal sentencing guidelines.
HMCTS has since said, however, that "magistrates are independent and not subject to direction advice from their legal advisers."
The advice is said to have been issued in order to ensure consistency in sentencing riot offenders across the country.
The Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Communications Office have both denied suggestions that they were involved in asking HMCTS to issue the advice.
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