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Mitchell Stancombe defends riot comments as "stupid"
11:58am Wednesday 20th June 2012 in News
JURORS have retired to consider their verdict over whether a mechanic used Facebook to try to incite a riot during last summer's riots.
Mitchell Stancombe is accused of making a number of comments on social networking site Facebook on August 9 that incited violence or disorder during the riots including writing: ''When are we going to start the Southampton riots then?''
When told to shut up by a friend, the 21-year-old replied: ''LOL - do a few coppers in.'' Southampton Crown Court heard how he then made another post encouraging an attack on Muslim people. Another friend, replying to Stancombe's posts, warned him that Facebook was being "watched", the court was told.
Christopher Stopa, prosecuting, told jurors that on the day the posts were made, there was widespread rioting across England in Birmingham, Manchester, Derby, London and Liverpool. Stancombe, from Totton, denies encouraging and assisting people to commit violent disorder under section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.
Mr Stopa told the jury the posts should be seen in the context of the rioting across England. ''If you look at these three posts together, the only possible explanation is that he was trying to encourage other people to get involved in violent disorder,'' the barrister said.
Hampshire police had been monitoring sites like Facebook during the riots in an operation costing £400,000. When Stancombe was arrested and questioned at Lyndhurst police station, he told officers the posts were an ill-advised joke and he did not intend to encourage anyone to riot.
While being cross-examined in court yesterday, he told the court: "I just think it has been blown out of all proportion. "It was just stupid and immature."
Asked whether with hindsight he should have made the comments, he told the court: "I would never have written anything like that at all." But the prosecution allege Stancombe was serious and the posts could have incited others - even though no disorder took place in Southampton.
The jury retired to consider their verdict this afternoon.