Wednesday, 10 August 2011

UK riots: More than 1,000 being hauled before courts

London quieter overnight but looting and fires in 
Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere as police tackle marauding gangs

Extra courts are being set up to deal with criminal charges from four nights of looting and rioting in English cities.More than 1,000 people have been arrested in centres including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and Leicester.

The Metropolitan police arrested 81 people on Tuesday night in the capital, where it was much quieter with 16,000 police officers from forces around the country on the streets.

Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham bore the brunt of the latest rioting and looting, with trouble also erupting in Liverpool, Salford, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Bristol and Gloucester.In Birmingham a murder inquiry is under way after three British Asian men were killed by a car in a suspected hit-and-run. Police have not established whether there was any direct link to disturbances in the city apart from the sheer numbers on the streets.

In Manchester police warned looters: "We are coming for you" and in London a senior police officer said vigilante groups set up to protect shops and homes were hampering police operations.

There were reports of people seeking to prevent looting in suburbs including Enfield and Eltham, where there were supporters of the English Defence League present, and Southall, where Sikhs protected their temple.The Met's deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh told Sky News: "These are small pockets of people. They're frustrated, they're angry and that's totally understandable. But the support that we need is to allow those officers to prevent looting and prevent crime. The sadness of those images through the night and the night before last will affect everyone.

"Ironically, when you see those images with no police available, the police are now having to go and do the vigilantes as well as the other problems that they've got. That needs to stop."Downing Street slapped down an appeal from the London mayor, Boris Johnson, to think again about cutting police numbers following the urban unrest. It said cuts had to be made to deal with the UK's deficit.

David Cameron, the prime minister, chaired another meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee on Wednesday to discuss the continuing unrest.

In Manchester groups of young people repeatedly evaded police from the late afternoon onwards, breaking into upmarket shops and setting a branch of the Miss Selfridge clothing chain on fire. As evening fell up to 200 youths raided an off-licence and other shops in the main shopping precinct of Salford, a couple of miles to the west.

The violence ebbed in Manchester city centre around midnight and police regained control.Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester police criticised "unprecendented" criminality and on Wednesday warned: "Hundreds and hundreds of people, we have your image, we have your face, we have your acts of wanton criminality on film." "We are coming for you from today, and no matter how long it takes we will arrest those people responsible."

Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor in the north-west of England, said: "Prosecutors have been working with police to prepare for just such an outcome, and charging those who committed crimes during the disorder last night is our top priority."

We have arranged for increased capacity in the courts to deal with these cases and will seek remands in custody wherever appropriate."

We are also advising on the charging of those caught in possession of property that was stolen. Anyone who handles stolen property is just as guilty of an offence as those who steal in the first place.

"Greater Manchester police said they had arrested more than 110 people overnight, while West Midlands police arrested 109 people following scenes of disorder in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.Shops including a branch of Marks & Spencer and a hi-fi store were again targeted in Birmingham with reports of a gun being fired, while there were reports of large groups of people in West Bromwich town centre and vehicles being set on fire.

Police in Wolverhampton responded to reports of a large group of people in the city centre after shops were damaged.

In Nottingham a police station and college were firebombed with more than 90 people arrested, while in Leicester officers arrested 13 people following disturbances in the city centre.

Thames Valley police made 15 arrests linked to trouble overnight, including five people who were held in Milton Keynes for alleged criminal damage and public order offences.

The Metropolitan police said 81 arrests were made across the capital overnight, including 20 men who were detained in Harlesden.Scotland Yard confirmed a fire involving a number of vehicles broke out on an industrial estate in Tottenham and its cause was being treated as unexplained.The force said a 21-year-old man had been arrested in connection with a large fire that destroyed a furniture store in Croydon on Monday.

On Wednesday night, businesses and shops across London had shut down early in a bid to avoid attack from the gangs of youths who ransacked buildings across the city over the previous days.

There was trouble in the south-west of England with police coming under attack from gangs of youths. Mounted officers were sent to combat groups of youths, some with their faces covered, who were smashing shop windows in Gloucester city centre overnight, while a fire broke out in the Brunswick area. Gloucestershire police said nine arrests were made.In Bristol police arrested 19 people following a second night of trouble.

There were small outbreaks of disorder reported by Thames Valley police in Reading, Oxford and Milton Keynes, while 200 missile-throwing youths gathered in the south Liverpool area of Toxteth, causing disorder and damage, according to Merseyside police. The force said 35 arrests were made.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested since the violence erupted in London on Saturday night – 768 of them in the capital alone.Parliament will be recalled for a day on Thursday to discuss the situation.

Monday, 8 August 2011

London Riots: Violence Escalates Across London

Police last night appeared to be losing the battle to take back control of London’s streets as violence, rioting and looting escalated across the capital.

As disturbances entered a third day, the scale of civil disobedience reached unprecedented levels, with incidents in all corners of the capital.
The violence, which began in Tottenham, north London on Saturday spread south and east to Brixton, Streatham, Walthamstow, Edmonton, Enfield, Oxford Circus and Islington on Sunday.
By last night further outbreaks of disorder involving hundreds of hooded yobs had taken place in Hackney, Clapton, East Ham, Lewisham and Clapham Junction. Property and shops were set on fire in Peckham and Croydon.
David Cameron last night announced he would cut short his family holiday in Italy to return to deal with the crisis.
Earlier, Boris Johnson, the London mayor, was forced into an embarrassing climbdown when he announced that he too was coming back hours after his deputy said that to do so would be to reward the rioters.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who also cut short her holiday, refused to be drawn when asked if Britain’s streets were becoming “lawless”.
As violent confrontations, organised using mobile phone instant messaging systems, spread, Birmingham became the first city outside London to experience trouble with rioters smashing city centre shop windows.
The first wave of attacks in the capital took place in broad daylight as the evening rush hour began. In some of the worst scenes yesterday, youths clashed with riot officers on Mare Street in Hackney, east London, throwing rocks and missiles. One police officer said looted machetes had been used to try to attack officers.
Police were pelted with fireworks and petrol bombs, patrol cars were smashed while other vehicles and buildings were set alight.
Riot officers, whose numbers had been quadrupled in anticipation of widespread violence, seemed largely powerless to intervene as they were outnumbered.
Other areas including Barking, Brent Cross, Palmers Green, Kilburn and Shepherds Bush were expecting violence as gangs of youths congregated. Shops across the capital closed early amid fears that the riots would spread further. Teams of riot officers were on standby in every borough in London.
West Midlands Police confirmed that extra officers were on patrol after the force became aware of a message circulated on social networking sites suggesting that Birmingham city centre would be targeted.
But with no sign that the tactic of increasing police numbers was succeeding, the Government and police faced growing questions over their handling of the riots.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, heard during a visit to Tottenham that locals felt police had deserted them. “There was nobody there to protect us”, one resident told him.
Police admitted they were struggling with the number of incidents as rioters used social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to plan their violence. Former police officers said that the sporadic nature of the riots was unprecedented.
Police said they were monitoring these sites and would prosecute people who used the internet to incite violence. One message posted called for a police officer to be killed.
However, much of the planning apparently took place on BlackBerry smartphones, which have a free messaging system. Police are unable to monitor these messages, but BlackBerry’s manufacturer said it would try to co-operate with detectives.
Roy Ramm, a former Scotland Yard commander, said the Met could lose control of London’s streets. “That has to be a possibility and the Home Secretary and [Met] commissioner are going to have to make some difficult decisions.” He said that by using mobile phones and social networks “these people can mass and change direction very quickly and the police tactics are being subverted”.
Last night more than 200 people had been arrested, the majority of them teenagers. The youngest was an 11 year-old, who was charged with burglary. Twenty seven people had been charged with a variety of offences.
Scotland Yard has been stung by accusations of a power vacuum at senior level. It is without a commissioner following the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson last month.
Tim Godwin, the acting commissioner, made a brief statement to reporters yesterday but it was not until last night, following a meeting with the Home Secretary, that he appeared on television to condemn the worst riots in more than a quarter of a century.
He urged parents to contact their children to get them indoors.
Mr Godwin said that while the violence on Saturday was rooted in frustration over the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four shot dead during a police operation, later disorder on Sunday was “pure criminality”.
Stephen Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner, added: “On occasions like this it is the burglars, the thugs and the bullies that are trying to make the most of the opportunity.”
There were fears that tensions may rise further today when the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirms that a bullet that hit a police officer’s radio in the incident in which Duggan died was a police issue bullet.
Talks have been held with the organisers of Notting Hill Carnival, which takes place at the end of this month, as fears grow that it could become a focal point for violence.
Police have already admitted that they had no choice but to allow looters to steal from high street shops on Saturday evening as they had to focus on the dozens of burning buildings and rioting in Tottenham.
Former Met commanders said the riots were unprecedented in their sporadic and spontaneous nature.
Brian Paddick, the former deputy assistant police commissioner who was a sergeant during the Brixton riots in the 1980s said: “We have not faced this situation before.
“In the absence of intelligence it is a major difficulty for the police, and the fact it is sporadic and widespread.”

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