So, the courts are being firm with rioters. Clearly, a riot is an aggravating factor for any crime and couple that with the fear imposed on whole communities it is right and proper that rioters be punished at the upper end of the scale for their actions. That hasn't stopped the professional do-gooders though, who have complained both about the length of sentences and supposed inconsistencies. For the former it is both a matter of deterrence and public confidence. People who may be considering involvement in a future riot will be brought up short by what has happened to the very large number of those caught for mayhem this time. No-one can argue that people are getting off with a slap on the wrist, and the fact that so many people have been arrested and processed so rapidly should make all but the thickest potential rioter think again. As for inconsistencies, sentencing is not an automatic process and reflects the details of a particular case. The idea that punishments should be drawn from a tightly drawn set of rules regardless of circumstance is actually quite illiberal.
This plays into public confidence. Consider a parallel universe where the police had been less vigorous and the courts had been handing out community service orders for assaults and property damage. Ordinary people would conclude that the system was not there to protect them and would act on that, abandoning high streets or whole areas and engaging in vigilante actions to protect themselves, because who else would be doing it? Society would be seen as distorted in favour of criminals and the loss of faith in our country and institutions would be corrosive. However, this hasn't stopped some talking heads telling us that the poor, misunderstood rioters shouldn't be treated so badly.
My take on this is that if you don't want to do the time, and incidently probably mess up the rest of your life with that criminal record, then don't do the crime. As for those two clowns who used Facebook to try and organise riots in their own communities and got four years apiece for it. All I can say is LOL.