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 1252.

    There will always been the 'have's' and 'have not's' in all society, it just depends on what you class as 'have not'. If you think that a pair of trainers or a flat screen tv will make you happy then you are sadly mistaken. How do you feel now watching daytime telly sat on the couch in your new trainers - any different?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1251.

    There is *no* justification for looting, assault & murder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1250.

    Re my earlier blog. Why should May and Clark be sacked. May because she is responsible for the publics safety, and Clark because he is responsible for sentencing. Yesterday a 19 year old looter was given ONE DAY IN PRISON. He was released immediately because he had already spent the night in police custody.
    This is obviously what Cameron means by being tough on those convicted!
    Sack him also.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1249.


    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"

    Oh good grief! The facts don't support your prejudices, so you chnage the facts. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1248.

    Time for proper boot camps. Get these thugs working under the direction of an Army Sergeant Major. Have him breathing down their neck while they are cleaning up the streets. Teach them respect and hard work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1247.

    These punishments are a badge of honour for most, they don't care about ASBO's, suspended sentences or community service. The problem we have is the fact that our prisons are full to the brim with scum anyway so where do we put this new influx. They need a heavy hand, they need the Police to regain power to truely take action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1246.

    watching this from the USA, I am appalled at the numbers involved. Evidently these people do not realise that taking part in such action will limit their ability to travel abroad maybe even prevent them from ever being allowed into the U.S.A. and for aspiring dancers, journalists, accountants etc. this is catastrophic. Also the level of open criminality is shocking. Basic honesty: roots of ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1245.

    In my view benefits need to be scrapped and replaced with a Community Work Scheme where people get 'paid' for things like cleaning the streets, working on highways etc. If they dont want to do this then send them into the military for 2 years.

    There is no reason why the country should allow people to sit at home on their rears and get paid for the privilege.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1244.

    Its all very well blaming the police in hindsight.

    But the fact is that they were facing something new - relatively small groups of 'rioters' working closely together, distracting the police in some areas, while collectively targeting stores in others.

    The police dide what they could under the operational rules they had.Any attempt to blamr them for 'under performing' is simply churlish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1243.

    Further to my last comment,what would have liked the police to do regarding Duggan let him fire his gun first kill someone and then shoot him,as I said in my last comment,leave the police alone and let them protect us from the likes of Duggan,rioters and probably the biggest threat to this country politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1242.

    With all the calls for police numbers not to be cut there seems to a misunderstanding: the cuts have not been made yet. This was a 'full strength' police force unable to cope with what was essentially a few looters. Calling for a stop to the police cuts does not excuse the police's woeful response.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1241.

    Withrawing benefits will create more social problems - instead make people work for these benefits by doing community work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1240.

    In February 2007 David Cameron was challenged about his use of cannabis at Eton and Oxford, and his membership of The Bullingdon Club, notorious for trashing the restaurants they frequented. His response was "Like many people, I did things when I was young that I should not have done, and that I regret." (Independent 13 February 2007). People living in glass houses Mr C?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1239.

    The police got it wrong - not according to Orde (ACPO) who came out of Cobra this morning talking of the "success" of British policing. Success - at least 3 dead, one foreign student openly mugged, a lady seen jumping from a blazing building to save her life, businesses and homes torched, and in some instances the police stood and watched!
    He should be sacked forthwith, as should May and Clark.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1238.

    George Osborne claims £440 for taxi to constituency.. (BBC Expenses) as he missed the last train, lead by example he could have stayed in a travel lodge and lives in a state funded property perhaps he too should be kicked out for poor judgement. There are plenty of other politicians in other parties guilty of dodgy claims in taxpayer funded homes! Kick them all out not just those on benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 1237.

    From what I have read so far, the ones sentenced have justnbeen given a slap on the wrist and told not to be naghty boys and girls. Why aren't they being made to pay for damages caused and goods stolen?
    Peter D

  • rate this

    Comment number 1236.

    The Riot Act should be repealed and insurance companies allowed to bring a class action against all those convicted of any offence in relation to the riots to recover the costs, estimated at well over £100m.
    The tax payer and insurance payer and certainly not the Police force should have to pay the burden of this mindless thuggery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1235.

    ...learn a bit from the American and Australian police...."

    I doubt that very much. UK Police all have regular riot control training, do American and Australians? Australians certainly don't. Sadly the UK Police have over 50 years of regularly dealing with riots in NI, they are the experts and it's best to let them get on with it. Gung-ho tactics would just make things far worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1234.

    Looking at part of David Camerons speech he says;
    "And to the lawless minority, the criminals who have taken what they can get, I say this: We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done."............
    Is it just a coincidence that you could apply the same words to MP's and Government?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1233.


    If you think most of these rioters even know about half of the stuff you're claiming as the flash point of these riots you're sorely mistaken. Check out the interviews, 'Cos we can!' is the deepest you get from any of them. You're political point scoring, stop it. Typical leftie behaviour though ...


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