England riots: Cameron says police admit to wrong tactics


David Cameron: 'The tactics the police were using weren't working'

The police admit they got their riot tactics wrong, the prime minister has said, as he announced measures to help homeowners and businesses.

David Cameron told MPs the riots in cities across England were "criminality pure and simple", but there were "far too few police" on the streets.

In an emergency recall of Parliament, he announced a crackdown on facemasks and a review on the use of curfews.

More than 1,500 arrests have been made since the unrest began on Saturday.

From court

A 17-year-old aspiring dancer who handed herself in after seeing her picture in a newspaper was among the defendants at a busy, yet efficient, Westminster Magistrates' Court.

An estate agent and students studying accountancy, journalism and engineering faced the district judge on charges arising from the riots.

The fate of an 18-year-old man who bought sports clothes which had been stolen from JD Sports in Clapham illustrated how seriously these offenders were being treated.

Ordinarily punished by a fine or community service, he was remanded in custody to face the heavier prison sentences of the crown court.

"Given the seriousness of the circumstances" was the repeated refrain of the district judge as she refused bail and sent each defendant to the crown court.

She said her power, to send people to jail for six months, was not enough.

Mr Cameron told MPs that it had become clear there had been problems in the initial police response to the disorder.

"There were simply far too few police deployed on to our streets and the tactics they were using weren't working," said the prime minister

"Police chiefs have been frank with me about why this happened.

"Initially the police treated the situation too much as a public order issue - rather than essentially one of crime.

"The truth is that the police have been facing a new and unique challenge with different people doing the same thing - basically looting - in different places all at the same time."

Mr Cameron also set out a range of measures aimed at helping businesses and homeowners affected by the riots.

They included:

  • To look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via social media when "we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality"
  • Plans to look at whether wider powers of curfew and dispersal orders were needed
  • New powers for police to order people to remove facemasks where criminality is suspected
  • Courts could be given tougher sentencing powers
  • Landlords could be given more power to evict criminals from social housing
  • Plans to extend the system of gang injunctions across the country and build on anti-gang programmes, similar to those in the US
  • He said the government would meet the cost of "legitimate" compensation claims under the Riot Act and that the time limit would increase from 14 to 42 days
  • A £10m Recovery Scheme to provide additional support to councils in making areas "safe, clean and clear"
  • A new £20m High Street support scheme to help affected businesses get back up and running quickly
  • Plans for the government to meet the immediate costs of emergency accommodation for families made homeless

The prime minister ruled out bringing in the Army, but said "every contingency" was being looked at - including whether the Army could undertake tasks that would free up more police for the front line.

He confirmed a reinforced police presence of 16,000 officers on the streets of London would remain in place over the weekend.

MPs debated the riots for more than seven hours - with most agreeing they were caused by criminals rather than protesters - and that there was no excuse for the actions of a lawless minority.

There was also universal praise for bravery of police - but some, including Home Secretary Theresa May, followed Mr Cameron's lead in criticising their tactics.

Mrs May said policing by consent was the British way, but robust action was needed.

Former Labour communities secretary Hazel Blears said police in her Salford constituency had briefly lost control of the streets - something that was "absolutely devastating" for the community.

'Absolute priority'

More than 20 Labour MPs - led by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper - have called on the government to reverse planned police cuts.

Labour leader Ed Miliband repeated their calls and urged the government to reconsider the plans.

Brian Paddick, former deputy assistant commissioner, criticised police over the riots

He said: "The events of the last few days have been a stark reminder to us all that police on our streets make our communities safer and make the public feel safer.

"Given the absolute priority the public attaches to a visible and active police presence, does the prime minister understand why they would think it is not right that he goes ahead with the cuts to police numbers?

Mr Cameron insisted the cuts were "totally achievable" without any reduction in the visible policing presence and said that a "surge" of officers - as seen in recent days - would still be possible in future.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said Lib Dem sources had told him there was "absolute coalition unity" on reducing police budgets and the cuts would not be reversed.

Meanwhile, Commons Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz has told the BBC its members have voted unanimously to hold an inquiry into the causes of the riots.

It will also look at the role of social networking, the police response and police resources.

In other developments:

Meanwhile, the Met Police have made 1,009 arrests and 464 people have been charged.

West Midlands Police have also arrested 389 people and 147 have so far been arrested in Manchester and Salford.

Courts sat through the night in London, Manchester and Solihull to deal with people arrested during the four nights of disturbances.

Mr Cameron told the Commons that anyone convicted of violent disorder would be sent to prison.

But Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said some officers had voiced disappointment at the sentences handed out so far.

Mr Kavanagh added that there had since been "constructive conversations" between the home secretary, the Met commissioner and the courts.

The prime minister also offered his condolences to the families of Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, who died when they were hit by a car in Birmingham on Tuesday night.

He called their deaths "truly dreadful".

Two youths and a man have been arrested on suspicion of murder, while a 32-year-old man arrested on Wednesday has now been been bailed.

The riots first flared on Saturday after a peaceful protest in Tottenham over the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, by police.

Mr Duggan's death is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1132.

    Get real people...Criminality is the issue here. Sickening images of looting from an injured person. Deal with criminality with the laws already there. Benefits and housing arguments are only diluting the core issue. Problem will not go away unless criminals are temporarily (minimum 1 year) behind bars to sit and contemplate their lot in life. No one can change criminals except themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1131.

    ,915. Billy "Please remember the ones that have been arrested recently all had jobs"

    That isn't actually true - the ones shown in the press have tended to be ones with jobs as these are the most likely to attract further interest and controversy

  • rate this

    Comment number 1130.

    If this were N.I., the riots would have been brutally put down with loss of rioter's lives likely. There would have been no reluctance to use the army, plastic bullets, water cannon, tear gas,CS gas, live rounds etc .The double standard is glaringly obvious. Why is that? Rioters in "mainland" UK are treated with kid gloves it seems. They can blame on their "lack of opportunities" etc. Strange.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1129.

    Mr Cameron is so out of touch, yes it has been disgraceful what has happened.But it has come to this brought on by the Conservative Government under the watchful eye of Mrs Thatcher she was the one whos policy was every man for himself and look after your own Look what it has come to. Mr Cameron should go and live in one of these areas go on benefit with no future prospects he wouldnt last 24hrs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1128.

    This 'sick' society is the product of the mostly white middle class 'red-brick' university educated politicians and commentators that are currently debating the issue. This goes way back to '79 and the start of Thatcherism. I'd like to see politicians shoulder some of the blame for the mess they've got 'society' into. And we need a broader spectrum of individuals involved in the debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1127.

    @881 'corncobuk' . You mention an underclass getting more angry and violent if their homes and benefits are removed - although I assume you refer to the ultimate sanctions against those yet to be convicted of criminal behaviour?

    It's sad what empty comments you make. Majority of people are aware of hard times all-day long - yet are not an 'underclass' nor do they set fires or loot. Shame on you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1126.

    Judging by those sentences I have read so far, we are back to the the pat-on-the-back approach. When I was magistrate not that long ago, my colleagues and I handed down sentences harsher than any of these for less serious offences. Equally, I have seen offenders with record sheets as long as one's arm made to pay paltry fines, laughing and walking away to re-offend. It's time to get real.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1125.

    A key issue here isnt that the police got it wrong its that all the budget cuts before hand might explain a LACK of police on the street!! cutting the public serivce budgets, then expecting a large force to contain a riot after services had to axe x amount of staff. I think its far to easy to critise there werent enough on the streets and not admit your part in the lack of officers available

  • rate this

    Comment number 1124.

    We have an inexperienced government with no idea.
    How will these rash new measures mend our society they will just makes things worse & creating a bigger divide.

    The social divide created by government is immense. Child poverty & homelessness is increasing, tax levels are high, we have a 100,000 young people not in employment or education.
    Come on DC sort it -create a more equal society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1123.

    Camerons attempt to align himself with public feeling through his new tough language after belatedly flying back from holiday is sickening. The public supports legitimate right to protest but we could all see from day 1 this was out of control. It seems students were fair game in their protests but the chance of a media outrage over scumbags being beaten was too much to stomach for him

  • rate this

    Comment number 1122.

    Re: More than 90,000 people have signed an online petition calling for anyone convicted of taking part in the riots to lose any benefits they receive.

    I guess they would be the same people who want to bring back the death penalty and possibly the lash? Anyone care to explain how making margialized people more margialized will help - enquiring minds want to know...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1121.

    [Continued] That's because the British government is a joke. And these yobs know it that's why they do it, no other reason. Cameron said yesterday and i quote "They will feel the full force of the law" Today a guy appeared in court charged with looting, acts of violence etc, he got a £60 fine. Yet the tv's radios, computer systems he stole will be worth 50 times more than that. Good job England

  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    The public doesn't have faith in the justice system because sentences are never served in full. The public needs/wants to see justice - criminals to serve sentences for a (lengthy) MINIMUM period - not to be let out after serving just a quarter of their sentence as this makes a mockery of any sentence handed down and the public then doesn't have a clue what sentence criminals will actually serve!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    what a lot of rubbish, youth have no jobs no future nothing to do. they choose not to work and it doesnt help they all think they are american gangster , having heard some on the bbc i needed subtitles. wake up its not the bronx, we all get the choice to succeed in life they choose not too. simple, noo more excuses. stop child benefits NOW if someone cant afford children then dont have sex

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.

    I totaly agree with Queen_Becci_B. You can't hold parents responsible for adults who dont behave, nor can you stop the benefits of people who are not in receipt of them, nor can you evict someone who owns their own home. It would be refreshing for those who judge others (PM included) to educate themselves on a subject before they speak out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1117.

    Will we hunt down Cameron and Johnson for their part in the Bullingdon criminal exploits when they were at Oxford Uni: breaking windows of restaurant, trashing rooms, etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1116.

    The police handled the rioters as well as they could have considering many of their powers reduced by no choice of their own the prisons should be basic not a summer camp like they are now as this is why criminals commit crime to have a better life in there. WE have to pay for Uni degrees they get it free like a gift for committing crime, why cant we be like Australia as they actualy have control?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    Never heard of anything as stupid in my life. Why is it anytime there's acts of violence in England the government stalls and stutters in their little house of commons telling the public what we already know? Their "plans and suggestions" are always filled with if's and but's. So wheres the action? Why are plastic bullets, tear gas and water cannons not been used from day one? [Continued...]

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    People who riot (whether employed or not) feel marginalised from society and therefore, feel no remorse when causing harm to said society. How does Cameron propose to make these people feel any less marginalised by ignoring the root cause of the problem. MPs do not lead by example (expenses fraud), top execs are greedy about big bonuses, and we expect the "have-nots" to feel happy about this?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    "2.45million unemployed
    480,000 job vacancies
    Stop demonising the unemployed!"

    So there are 480,000 job vacancies, makes a mockery of 'no jobs available', most of the 2.45 million are probably unemployable and have no wish or desire to change their circumstances!!!!

    People stop turning this into a poverty thing, its not, children in Africa are actually dying!!!!!


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