British student jailed over riot role

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A British student who hurled a fire extinguisher off the roof during a student riot that engulfed the governing Conservative Party's headquarters was jailed for 32 months on Tuesday.

Edward Woollard, 18, threw the extinguisher from the top of the eight-storey complex during the riot on November 10, the first in a series of violent protests in London over government plans to hike university tuition fees.

The extinguisher only narrowly missed police and protesters below.

Woollard admitted violent disorder. He will serve at least half of his sentence in a young offenders institution.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin said it was "shocking" to have to sentence a young man to jail but the courts needed to send a "very clear message" that such serious violence would not be tolerated.

"The right of peaceful protest is a precious one. Those who abuse it and use the occasion to indulge in serious violence must expect a lengthy sentence of immediate custody," he said.

The judge said he had watched television footage of Woollard's actions.

"This heavy fire extinguisher fell terrifyingly close to a group of police officers -- just a few feet away," he said.

"It is, in my judgment, exceedingly fortunate that your action did not result in death or very serious injury either to a police officer or a fellow protester."

Woollard's mother encouraged him to turn himself in and said he deserved to be punished.

During the chaotic demo, thousands of demonstrators besieged 30 Millbank, smashing their way in and running riot through the building. Vastly outnumbered, police were powerless to stop them.

It was the first of four student demonstrations that turned violent.

The government narrowly won a December 9 vote in parliament on its plans to double the basic level of annual tuition fees at English universities to 6,000 pounds (9,350 dollars, 7,200 euros), with an upper limit of 9,000 pounds, from next year.

© 2011 AFP

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