A HAMPSHIRE man has been jailed for three years after being found guilty of inciting violence during the height of last summer’s riots.

Mitchell Stancombe stood motionless in the dock at Southampton Crown Court as the jury foreman delivered the unanimous guilty verdict after two hours of deliberations.

They had heard how Stancombe had posted a number of comments on the social networking site Facebook that included “When are we going to start the riots in Southampton then?” in August last year.

The 21-year-old mechanic of Kingsley Gardens, Totton, denied the charge claiming he had meant the comments as a joke and that they had been “blown out of all proportion”.

Following the verdict Stancombe’s defence counsel Mark Ashley said: “The consequences of these few moments of stupidity are almost certainly going to affect the rest of his life.”

In handing down the sentence Judge Gary Burrell QC said he had no option but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to serve as a deterrent. He told Stancombe that it was “merciful” that no one had actually acted upon the comments he had posted.

Stancombe is accused made the comment on August 9 last year.

When told to shut up by a friend, the 21-year-old replied: ''LOL (laugh out loud) - 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."