England riots: Cameron says police admit to wrong tactics
The police admitted 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.
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. 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
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.
More than 20 Labour MPs – led by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper – called on the
government to reverse planned police cuts.
Labour leader Ed Miliband repeated their calls and urged the government to reconsider
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
is "absolute coalition unity" on reducing police budgets and the cuts will not be reversed.
Meanwhile, Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, has
told the BBC its members have voted unanimously to hold an inquiry into the causes of
It will also look at the role of social networking, the police response and police resources.
In other developments:
A man is arrested over an attack on a Malaysian student who was mugged by
would-be Good Samaritans after rioters attacked him in east London
More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for anyone
convicted of taking part in the riots to lose any benefits they receive – becoming the
first to be considered for a Commons debate
Up to 250 officers were sent from Scotland to help police in the Midlands and
North of England deal with rioting and disorder
Police in London say they have more than 100 arrest warrants to work
through "in the coming hours and days"
The government launches a website with advice to the public on how to cope
with the unrest
Saturday's Premier League match between Tottenham and Everton at White Hart
Lane has been postponed
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
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
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