Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hollie Bentley (Facebook Riot Girl) - case referred to Crown Court

The AJs just keep on rolling in. Today at Wakefield Magistrate's Court in West Yorkshire, a young woman named Hollie Bentley was told that her charge under the Serious Crimes Act would be heard before the Crown Court. On the 9th of August (why do all these seem to be from the same day?), the 19 year old allegedly created a Facebook event called "Wakey Riots" set to take place over the 13th and 14th of August and referred to it either in the description or on the event wall with the text "Who's up for it LMFAO." Clearly a joke. It was nice of her to schedule the riots at the weekend. Very convenient. There were of course no riots in Wakefield. Ms Bentley has yet to enter a plea. A skeletal news story on the BBC web site suggests she has not admitted to performing the act of which she is accused.

My friend Matt Bradley was at the hearing and he has provided this write up: I am bemused. As reported earlier, David Glyn Jones, of Glasinfryn, Bangor, Gwynedd created a similar Facebook event and was charged not under the provisions of the Serious Crime Act but under the much less serious provisions of the Communications Act 2003. Setting all the difficulties with the Communications Act aside, I am at a loss to understand how the CPS felt they satisfied the evidential stage of the Full Code Test with this case. The relevant Serious Crime Act provisions (sections 44-46) impose a significant burden to prove intent, as befits the seriousness of the crimes. I think it would be quite difficult to prove intent here. Nevertheless, it seems the evidential stage has been made out, as a magistrate has referred the matter on. The magistrate stresses the seriousness of the charge, saying "people died in the riots." This is true; however, it is also quite immaterial. The clear intention to incite a riot must be proven. It is not enough that a serious disturbance is a foreseeable consequence of such actions. One wonders whether this would have been referred to the Crown Court had Ms Bentley entered a plea of not guilty.

On the matter of the Serious Crime Act versus the Communications Act, Matt Bradley suggests that the difference may come down to the setting of a place and date for a disturbance to occur, which is the sort of functionality that a Facebook event provides. It's possible that Glyn Jones' story has been misreported and instead of an event, he chose a page or a simple wall post. If this is the distinction that the CPS are making when charging with a serious crime, then it is at best extremely naive. A riot is an event, quite clearly. When a young lady (or man) sees events going on around or near her that are frightening and hard to believe, she might deal with those events by making a joke out of them in order to make them seem less scary and regain a sense of control. If I were to act out in this way on Facebook, I do believe that I would use an event as it is the most apt tool for the job. And of course, the event encourages (or perhaps even forces) one to set a date, place and time. Hollie Bentley almost certainly did create the Facebook event that has gotten her into so much trouble. She also quite clearly meant it as a joke. For goodness sake, she wrote "LMFAO"! How many more of these miscarriages of justice will we sit here and watch as they are handed down? I am not in any position to give anyone legal advice, but it seems to me that Hollie Bentley had better plead not guilty, or else she will be laughing her effing arse off in prison for sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment