Facebook ‘riot’ pair are cleared

Facebook Three. Lancaster Magistrates Court 19th August 2011.'Karl Manley 28( right) and Stefan Johnson, 21.
Facebook Three. Lancaster Magistrates Court 19th August 2011.'Karl Manley 28( right) and Stefan Johnson, 21.
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A CROWN Court judge has described the actions of two young men cleared of inciting burglary on Facebook during last summer’s riots as “reprehensible”.

Karl Manley, 28, of Goldfinch Close, Heysham, and Stefan Johnson, 22, of Greenfield Street, Lancaster, were found not guilty at Lancaster Crown Court on Tuesday of encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence, believing it would be committed.

During the two-day trial, the court heard Manley, a second-year business management student at the University of Cumbria, posted, “PC World, Lancaster, 7.30pm. Let the looting begin. Could do with a new laptop,” on his Facebook page around 1pm on Tuesday, August 9, at the height of disorder across the country.

Johnson copied the status on to his own profile.

Both men told the court the posts were a “joke”, and it took the jury half an hour to acquit them.

After the verdict, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “Your behaviour that night, if not criminal, was criminally irresponsible. To behave like you did was reprehensible.

“It has cost a lot of time and resources to deal with this matter.

“You must be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves.”

The court heard a support unit was sent to monitor PC World on Kingsway Retail Park, Caton Road, Lancaster, following the posts, but no trouble was reported.

See the Lancaster Guardian (09-02-12) for full story.