England rioters 'poorer, younger, less educated'

Police detain a man during rioting in Birmingham Riots spread to several areas of England over a number of days in August

The most comprehensive statistics published so far on people charged over the August riots in England reveal they were poorer, younger and of lower educational achievement than average.

The government figures show 13% of those arrested were gang members.

In terms of ethnicity, 42% of those charged were white, 46% black, 7% Asian and 5% were classified as "other".

The Met Police admitted in a separate report it did not have enough officers available on the first night of riots.

Breakdown of the Home Office and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures, in brief:


  • Some 90% of those brought before the courts were male and about half were aged under 21
  • Only 5% were over the age of 40
  • Of those defendants whose ethnicity is known: 46% were black, 42% were white, 7% were Asian and 5% were classified as "other". In some areas - such as Salford - this partially matched the ethnicity of the general population, in others - such as Nottingham - it was not representative of the general population
  • Some 35% of adults were claiming out-of-work benefits, which compares to a national average of 12%
  • Of the young people involved, 42% were in receipt of free school meals compared to an average of 16%

Criminal backgrounds:

  • 13% of those arrested overall were gang members but in London the figure was 19%
  • Three-quarters of all those who appeared in court had a previous conviction or caution. For adults the figure was 80% and for juveniles it was 62%
  • One in eight of all the crimes committed in the riots were muggings, claiming 664 victims
  • More than 2,500 shops and businesses were victims of looters and vandals, and more than 230 homes were hit by burglars or vandals

Educational backgrounds:

  • Two-thirds of the young people in court were classed as having some form of special educational need, compared to 21% for the national average
  • More than a third of young people who were involved in the riots had been excluded from school during 2009-10 - this compares with Department for Education records showing 6% exclusions for all Year 11 pupils
  • More than one in 10 of the young people appearing before courts had been permanently excluded - the figure drops to 0.1% among all those aged 15
Riot statistics

The MoJ said: "It is clear that compared to population averages, those brought before the courts were more likely to be in receipt of free school meals or benefits, were more likely to have had special educational needs and be absent from school, and are more likely to have some form of criminal history.

"This pattern held across all areas looked at."

'Devastating indictment'

Start Quote

The worst possible outcome would be just to sling all these young people in prison and risk their joining gangs out of terror and becoming hardened criminals”

End Quote Juliet Lyon Prison Reform Trust

Family Action - a charity for disadvantaged and socially isolated families - said the figures were "a devastating indictment of the way society has failed some of the poorest and most disadvantaged younger men".

"These shocking figures make clear that the poverty, disadvantage and disaffection experienced by this group are root causes of the August riots; and now their futures will be blighted by criminal sentences," spokeswoman Rhian Beynon said.

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said the figures showed the need to address social deprivation.

"While it may not surprise people to learn that young rioters were more likely than other children to be living in poverty, excluded from school and suffering from a learning disability or difficulty, it's time we did something to put things right," she said.

"The worst possible outcome would be just to sling all these young people in prison and risk their joining gangs out of terror and becoming hardened criminals."

'Opportunity and greed'
Rioting in Tottenham, north London The Met says, with hindsight, it did not have enough officers on the ground when the riots began

Earlier this month, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the Conservative Party conference that gangs had played a "significant part" in the riots.

But following the release of the statistics, a government spokesman said: "In terms of the role gangs played in the disorder, most forces perceived that where gang members were involved, they generally did not play a pivotal role."

Criminal Justice Minister Nick Herbert said: "These figures confirm that, in the vast majority of cases, existing criminals were out in force during the disturbances in August.

"The fact that half of recorded crimes were for offences like stealing and looting shows that most of what we saw was motivated by opportunity and greed.

"The tough sentences that have rightly been handed down to rioters, and subsequently upheld on appeal, send out a strong deterrent message that society will not tolerate the appalling behaviour we saw on our streets."

Initial findings

Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott said placing the blame on gangs showed "just how little the government really knows about inner-city areas".

"The government needs to address why many of these youngsters feel as though they have no stake in society.

"For many people who were rioting, that week was a rejection of the future that was laid out for them."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Tom Brake said it was shocking that two-thirds of young people involved in the riots were found to have had a special educational need (SEN).

"This statistic underlines the absolute priority that must be given to supporting the most disadvantaged children and those with SEN with a package of co-ordinated measures that could include mentoring, speech and language therapy and catch-up classes," he said.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has published the initial findings of a review into its handling of the rioting and looting.

It said that so far there was no evidence of senior commanders ordering local commanders to not make arrests if offences were taking place.

However, it admitted that "with hindsight" the Met did not have enough officers available on the first night of the rioting.

The review will investigate the cost of making water cannon available to the force - although the report notes that such equipment does have limitations.

The Met is reviewing ways of "co-ordinating, assessing and prioritising social media content for intelligence purposes".

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens said: "Thoroughly reviewing disorder that touched almost every part of London was always going to be a significant task and we are progressing this as quickly as we can.

"We are committed to being as open as possible so that we, our partners and the public can properly understand what worked, what didn't and what we need to do differently.

"Today's report provides some high-level emerging findings and we will publish more detailed findings as the review further progresses."

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