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 1232.

    The expression about glass houses springs to mind. When we have a corrupt government and police force how can they set a role model. Too often MP's and Police officers are given a light tap on the wrist for misdemeanors, and who has pushed for this society where wealth and acquisition mean everything. Two wrongs don't make a right, but look to the top first and then condemn those lower down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1231.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1230.

    This 'young' generation is poorer than their parents in every sense. Especially in the IQ department. Chimpanzees display more intelligent behaviour.

  • Comment number 1229.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1228.

    You will recall that fairly recently a police officer gave a man a push in a London street during a large scale riot as he ambled along that street and prevented/delayed the clearance of that street. The police officer is now awaiting trial for manslaughter.
    How keen, as a police officer would you have been to go in hard and fast under these same circumstances?
    Mixed messages??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1227.

    Surely in the age of technological marvels its not beyond reach to ban the convicted from facebook, twitter etc, or even having a mobile/internet access. The names and addresses should be circulated to anywhere they could potentially be members of/subscribers to get them banned from there too. Community service (like repairing what they've broken) would be better than pointless fines as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1226.

    Our esteemed leader, back on a State visit, had the infernal cheek to say that the police had learned from their mistakes.

    The police have been exemplary. It's the imbeciles in Westminster that have let us down. Soft on crime. Soft on prisoners. Human Rights without responsibility. Sending the army to fight other people's wars instead of protecting our people. Fiddling expenses.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1225.

    @1107 ..'Politicians who can fiddle the system and get away with it.'....so why have so many been convicted? Your right about the Bankers being greedy, but what has this got to do with looting and rioting?
    The Police got it wrong when they 'kettled' demonstrations...that's provoking riot, but a riot takes force fast and hard, to quell and should have been done here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1224.

    Scary when excess greed at the top leads to blacks, whites and browns at the bottom all getting upset when left with nothing. Now it's evictions. Will it be destruction of homes ala Israel and "famine" Ireland tomorrow? Internment a possibility? How about transportation- but to where? Cheaper for Britain to foster a loyal underclass, as in Northern ireland, to control the other undesirables.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1223.

    For rioters can we please start using looters and thieves, why are we glamorizing these people

  • rate this

    Comment number 1222.

    Cameron says not to politicise the riots and simplifies the root cause as general lawlessness. He doesn't want us to dig too deep as it will expose the failures of this and previous Governments, the general decline of standards in England, and how greed and consumerism has created a society of individuals (at all levels) all out for what they can get, with no idea of what community is all about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1221.

    That's what happens when Great Britain becomes Entitlement Britain , you reap what you sow. Go read about the broom army and see people working on the former.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1220.

    Forget everything else, the idea that censoring and stopping people from being able to freely communicate ('stop people communicating via social media') is anything other than insane is apalling. We do not have democracy without freedom of speech. We cannot allow the government to use censorship, ever. This is blatent knee-jerk overreaction, and is sacrificing freedoms for short-term security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1219.

    Bankers Stealing, MP Stealing, Police Corrupt, Papers Corrupt.
    Corp Tax avoidance, HMRC writing off tax owed.
    Cut backs in youth projects, Cut backs in Police

    People on benefits are under-educated not stupid.

    They see everyone else getting their free share of the UK. Those kids want some too. They do not see anything wrong with their behavior, just copying the rest of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1218.

    It is ludicrous to put more police on the streets and expand court sittings when there are now 25% fewer prosecutors than only three months ago! Who is going to prepare the case and secure the conviction? Until the prosecution is perfected the criminal has every opportunity to escape justice. To pour more defendants into an underfunded, demoralised & reduced CPS is to pour a quart into a pint pot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1217.

    Some thoughts
    some kids hate police and want to show they aren't scared
    opportunist professional criminals are now committing burglaries
    the poor & unemployed are becoming angry desperate and violent
    looting and criminality will become more common on/off in general
    Possible Guerrilla warfare type tactics may be used such as several attacks at once or none at all depending on police movements

  • rate this

    Comment number 1216.

    I have the perfect solution:
    - Kids or teenagers that are not attending school, working or doing social services, the parents and relatives will lost any benefits till this situation changes
    - Kids or people that was looting, the same applies to the relatives for a period of time like 3 months, till the kid start again school, working or social services

    That way the family is the solution

  • rate this

    Comment number 1215.

    The police got it wrong.....the financial pressure that the police are under cause there not to be enough officers on the streets. Good job Mr Cameron cut his £10,000 per week holiday short and rode on a white charger back to save all of us. What utter rubbish... nothing will change for the better until the govt of today listen to the voters of tomorrow

  • rate this

    Comment number 1214.


    "BBC are at the vanguard of blaming the police for the riots" - no, BBC just stupidly swallowing No10's line distancing PM from responsibility. Ask any serving police officer who was there in Tottenham or Croydon and they will tell you the police had their hands tied by govt guidelines and soundings from Justice Ministry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1213.

    Take away state benefits from the rioters? What about the working men and women who have been involved? Will we be taking their wages away? What about the dependents of those who rioted? Are we going to take the food from the mouths of children for what mummy or daddy did? This is an ill-thought out, knee-jerk reaction which is counterproductive. We need constructive solutions from communities...


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