British Prime Minister Vows ‘Uncompromising Measures’ In Dealing With Riots
August 11th, 2011
Los Angeles Times
By: Janet Stobart
Reporting from London— Facing a full house at an emergency meeting of Parliament Prime Minister David Cameron promised “robust and uncompromising measures” in response to the riots that have plagued Britain since Saturday.
Facing a full house at an emergency meeting of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron promised “robust and uncompromising measures” in response to the riots that have plagued Britain since Saturday.
“To the lawless minority, the criminals who have taken what they could, we will hunt you. … We will punish you,” he said.
He vowed stronger police powers including the ability to unmask rioters, greater coordination between police and the community, and compensation funds for victims of violence and arson.
Speaking to a packed house of lawmakers called back from vacation, Cameron said police admitted that they were initially unprepared for and outnumbered during the flash riots, but he praised officers and community workers who struggled to protect neighborhoods.
To victims of the violence, Cameron pledged damage compensation, even for the uninsured. “We will help you repair the damage, get your businesses back up and running, and support your communities,” he said. Claims are expected to reach over $300 million.
However, budget cuts in police services, part of the government’s overall plan to reduce a huge deficit, would not be lifted, Cameron said, answering opposition questions to defer the measures.
Police would receive any “funds they need to meet the cost of any legitimate aims,” but plans to reduce their overall budget by 6% over the next four years would go ahead, he said.
Among their new powers, the prime minister said, would be the ability “under any circumstances” to demand that crime suspects remove face coverings. Many looters who ransacked shops during the riots wore masks to avoid being identified.
Crowd-dispersal and curfew regulations would also be reviewed, Cameron said.
He described what he sees as the underlying causes of the recent violence: a culture of disrespect for authority, gang culture, and children growing up in dysfunctional families.
Gang injunctions would be used across the whole country for children and for adults, he said. Other sanctions are already in place — local authorities, for exampled, can evict perpetrators of violence and disorder from subsidized housing — but they could be strengthened, he said.
“We can go further with getting to grips with gangs,” he said, noting the efforts of people such as William J. Bratton, who headed police forces in New York and Los Angeles.
Bratton is said to have been suggested as a possible outside candidate for the now-vacant post of chief commissioner for Scotland Yard.
As Cameron spoke, courts around the country were struggling to handle riot-linked cases that are pouring in, some conducting around-the-clock sessions. By Thursday, the number of arrests stood at about 922, police said, but the figure was increasing hourly.