Wakefield teenager cleared over riot joke

Hollie Bentley. PIC: Ross Parry
Hollie Bentley. PIC: Ross Parry
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A 19-year-old woman, who jokingly posted a message on her Facebook page encouraging people to riot, walked free from court today after a judge directed a jury to acquit her.

Hollie Bentley posted the message on the social networking site on August 9 with the title “Wakey Riot”, followed by the words “Who’s Up For It?”

It was alleged she was intending to encourage violent disorder in Wakefield as looting and mayhem gripped other parts of the country during the summer.

But the Recorder of Leeds, Peter Collier QC, told the jury to find her not guilty after hearing the message was a joke.

Leeds Crown Court was told Miss Bentley also posted the letters LMFAO on her Facebook page, which stands for Laughing My F****** Arse Off.

The judge told the jurors they could not be sure that at the time the message was posted she intended it to be taken seriously and directed the jury to find her not guilty.

Prosecuting, Richard Clews, said the case centred around the “dark days” of the summer when many British cities were gripped by violence.

“On the 9th of August this country was in the thick of them. This case is about the riots,” he told them.

He said Miss Bentley posted her message on her Facebook page from her bedroom with a proposed time and date and with a picture of Wakefield Cathedral.

The court was told several people responded to the message, with one telling her “this is stupid” and telling her to delete it.

The jury heard Miss Bentley responded with “You do know this is a joke, right?”

The prosecutor said the message was sent to more than 700 people and one of them, a 16-year-old youth, noticed the message and alerted his police officer brother.

Mr Clews added: “He didn’t think it was a joke and reported it to his brother who reported it. The defendant was arrested.”

“She told the police she thought it was funny. What the prosecution say is that nobody could possibly think anything like that was funny.

“It is not funny now and it was certainly not funny on the 9th of August.”

During a police interview with Pc Angelina Shute, Miss Bentley insisted her message was a joke.

The officer told the court she was not familiar with the workings of Facebook, but she was aware what LMFAO meant.

Under questioning from the judge, she added: “It was clear to me she meant it as a joke.”

Miss Bentley, from Hornbeam Avenue, Wakefield, denied encouraging people to commit violent disorder.

The teenager, who is pregnant with her first child, showed no emotion as she was cleared and was hugged by her father outside the courtroom.

She declined to comment as she left the court with her family.

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