Last updated: August 12, 2011 9:35 am

Cameron starts ‘fight back’ against rioters

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments

The death toll resulting from the spate of riots across English cities rose as a man left in a coma following an attack in Ealing died in hospital late on Thursday.

Detectives have launched a murder inquiry following the death of Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, who was set upon by a mob as he attempted to put out a fire during Monday’s violence.

The news follows David Cameron’s promise on Thursday that the “fight back had well and truly begun” after days of rioting.

Police could be given powers to shut down communication networks, impose curfews and force people to remove face masks, the prime minister said.

Mr Cameron pledged the increased police presence would remain until the weekend and unveiled a package of measures for small businesses and victims of rioting and looting in an emergency statement to more than 500 MPs. The package includes a £20m high street fund to help local retailers back on their feet and a £10m recovery scheme to give councils more support in the clean-up operation. He also said small businesses would have 42 days – rather than two weeks – to file insurance claims.

The prime minister also used the emergency statement to reassure the public that the government would come down hard on those who committed crimes amid public fury that the police failed to protect innocent people from looting and violence during four nights of terror.

“We will not put up with this,” said Mr Cameron. “In our country we will not allow a culture of fear on our streets . . . this was not about politics or protests, this was about theft.”

But he acknowledged that there had been police failings and announced that the army could be used in such extreme circumstances to help police cope with disorder by taking over “everyday jobs” to free up officers for “frontline jobs”.

“They didn’t get everything right initially and they are the first to admit that,” said Mr Cameron. “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 said police would be given new powers to guard against further looting and lawlessness. He told MPs that the police, intelligence services and communications industry was considering whether it would be “right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”.

He also announced that the police would have the discretion to force people to remove face coverings “under any circumstances where there is reasonable suspicion that they are related to criminal activity”.

However, on Thursday evening, Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, rejected criticism of police tactics by Mr Cameron and Theresa May, the home secretary, saying politicians were “irrelevant” when it came to discussing how best to bring rioters under control.

Mr Cameron vowed to mend Britain’s “broken society” as he pledged to tackle gang culture, provide more discipline in schools and encourage greater parental responsibility.

“I have said before that there is a major problem in our society with children growing up not knowing the difference between right and wrong. This is not about poverty, it’s about culture. A culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities,” he said to the approval of his backbenches.

He said tackling gangs would be a “national priority” and that there would be legal provision for action against children and adults involved in gangs, as well as reviewing whether local authorities need to have tougher powers to evict gang members from social housing.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, called on the prime minister to reconsider cuts to police numbers which could see some 16,000 made redundant. Mr Cameron stood his ground, however, saying the cuts could be made “without any reduction in visible policing”, to the disgust of Labour MPs

The opposition leader also urged the government to set up an inquiry to learn lessons from the riots, “reaching out and listening to those affected, the decent law-abiding majority” rather than Whitehall figures and academics.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments


Sign up to UK Politics, the FT's daily briefing on Britain.

Sign up now

The FT’s one-stop overview of key British economic data, including GDP, inflation, unemployment, business surveys, the public finances and house prices


Sign up for email briefings to stay up to date on topics you are interested in

Enter job search