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The Greater Manchester Police's New Hashtag Should Be #Jailed

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, August 11 2011

The Greater Manchester Police have taken up the practice of tweeting the names and dates of birth of people convicted of crimes stemming from the recent riots there.

"We promised we'd name all those convicted for their roles in the disorder," the police department said via Twitter, reaching nearly 90,000 followers. "Here we go ..."

In response to questions from Britons on Twitter, the police said that the information they were releasing was already public domain — pertaining to people who are guilty of a crime in the eyes of the law — and that they were obliged to release ages and streets of residence so that people of the same names aren't misdentified as culprits. We found the news via The Next Web.

As the day wore on, the Manchester police responded to criticism from several corners about the practice, considering they are naming and shaming people who were found guilty of crimes such as swearing at police, drunk and disorderly, and handling stolen goods.

These types of crimes are often handled in magistrate's courts, the U.K.'s lowest courts. (Higher offenses, and longer sentences, go to jury trial in another court.) The Guardian's data blog is analyzing the scores of appearances in these courts as defendants are processed even into the night, during specially convened sessions.

Here's the Guardian's take on the people who are being processed in court, based on their data analysis — context that does not appear on the Manchester Police's website or Twitter feed:

People facing court charged with riot-related offences are overwhelmingly young, male and unemployed. Those who are found guilty are receiving prison sentences - or being passed onto higher courts for sentencing. Out of the 1.7m cases heard in magistrates courts last year, only 3.5% were remanded to jail. These figures from this week show a rate of nearly 60%.

(With Becky Kazansky)

This post has been updated.