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Student protester jailed for 32 months
Student who threw fire extinguisher sentenced to jail, while two Edinburgh students arrested for November protests
Polly Dallyn
Wednesday, 26 January, 2011 | 09:00

Hampshire student Edward Woollard, 18, has been jailed for 32 months after being convicted of violent disorder during student protests in London on 10 November.

Mr Woollard confessed to throwing a fire extinguisher off the seventh floor of the Conservative Party’s Milbank building, narrowly missing a line of riot police standing below. Police say he could have caused “catastrophic injury".

Mr Woollard claims he acted in a “moment of madness”, aiming for the gap in police officers, and that he never intended to cause injury. The sixth form student at Brockenhurst College gave himself up to police after Sky News broadcast a CCTV image of him.

He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison and will serve at least half of his sentence in custody at a Young Offenders’ Institution. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC told the defendant: “It is deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing, for a court to have sentenced a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody, but the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can.”

The sentence has been criticised by many as excessive, amid accusations of political retaliation from the student community. Paul Cotterill, an ex-magistrate and writer of the blog ‘Though Cowards Flinch’, noted that there were certain mitigating factors, such as Mr Woollard’s young age, the fact that he confessed at the earliest opportunity and has no previous record that should have seen his sentence significantly reduced.

Speaking to The Journal, Mr Cotterill said: “Mr Woollard’s specific act was reckless and not helpful to the cause at the time. Perversely, though, the relative harshness of the sentence may increase the level of protest.”

Two students have also been arrested in Edinburgh following the protests outside Holyrood on 30 November. Protestors marched down the Royal Mile before launching a sit-in at Edinburgh University’s Appleton Tower. After being arrested, the students were reported to the procurator fiscal after throwing snowballs at police while trying to gain access to the Dynamic Earth building.

Michael Shaw, a spokesman for the University of Edinburgh Anti-Cuts Coalition, which organised the sit-in, told The Journal: “The students were charged with assault but it is a waste of police time as the charges will probably be dropped.”

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