A JURY took just 30 minutes to clear a St Leonards man of posting a series of messages on Facebook to incite looting at the height of the nationwide riots in the summer.
Nathan Sinden, 27, of Blackman Avenue, said he was only joking when he wrote comments including: “Let’s start a riot in Hastings. Who’s on it?”
In postings visible to his 754 Facebook friends, he also wrote: “Looting it is then today. Who’s up for shopping?” and followed it up with “Town on lockdown. LOL.”
A two-day trial heard that because of his online comments and those of others, shops shut early and 38 police officers were deployed as rumours of potential trouble spread in Hastings town centre, East Sussex, on August 9.
Shaven-headed Sinden was arrested the following day but told police he was joking and never had any intention to follow through with his threats.
He denied intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of burglary and jurors sitting at Hove Crown Court returned a not guilty verdict after deliberating for 30 minutes.
A number of Sinden’s friends posted replies to his comments, including one who said: “Well then, I hope your daughter is very proud.”
Jurors heard that Sinden replied: “She will be when I’ve got her loads of new things.” He added in another post: “F*** it. Old Bill probably s******* it.”
His posts were greeted by a string of responses some people laughing at him one saying: “I am going down from Curry’s at midnight” and a woman in her fifties saying: “I will get a digger from a building site and see you down there.”
Another female friend added: “You have a little girl. Imagine if she got hurt. Some of us are actually worried about it.
“I have been watching the devastation it is causing and find it hard to understand why people would want that in their own town.”
One of his relatives then wrote: “Don’t be stupid Nathan.” Another then wrote: “You are the one saying that you love your girls. Sit in and don’t get into it all.”
But in a private chat thread on Facebook, Sinden was asked by a friend whether he was serious about his comments and he confirmed he was joking.
Sinden, who the jury heard has previous convictions for theft, criminal damage and violence and disorder, told officers: “You don’t expect to believe everything you read on Facebook.”
Earlier in the trial the court heard from DC James Parkinson, of Hastings CID, who interviewed Sinden.
He told how Hastings was deserted hours after Sinden posted his comments because of riot rumours.
He said: “Lots of businesses in the town were closed as a result of people calling into the police station and saying they had heard rumours about disorder.
“The town was mostly populated by 38 uniformed police officers and not many other people.”
He said the rumours had been started by Facebook posts.