14 Aug 2011

Police arrest 1600 over riots in England

5:59 am on 14 August 2011

Police have been conducting raids across England, where more than 1600 people have now been arrested over the rioting and unrest that has left five people dead.

More than 1200 of the arrests were in London.

Courts have been sitting around the clock. Half of those arrested have already appeared before the courts. Almost a fifth of those charged so far are under 18, the BBC reports.

Jail terms have been handed to many youngsters, some for stealing a few T-shirts, and one man was sentenced to six months jail for stealing a few bottles of water.

Lawyers say these convictions cannot be justified, especially for people who have no criminal records.

Meanwhile, British police chiefs have again defended their handling of the riots, accusing politicians of making pronouncements based on hindsight.

Council begins eviction of accused's mother

Conservative-run Wandsworth Council in south London has started eviction proceedings against a woman whose son appeared in court charged in connection with the riots in Clapham Junction, the BBC reports.

The tenant and her son are believed to be the first in the country to face the prospect of losing their council-owned home as a result of the riots.

The move needs approval from a judge.

British Prime Minister David Cameron backed the Wandsworth Council's move, saying people who "loot and pillage their own community" should no longer be allowed to live in social housing.

His comments reflect the hardline stance among many in Britain as they come to terms with the unprecedented violence and destruction over four nights of street riots, arson and looting in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Other councils have threatened to take similar action.

More than 160,000 people have signed an online petition calling for anyone convicted of criminal acts during the unrest to have their financial benefits taken away.

Cameron calls for US police help

David Cameron has enlisted the help of the former police chief of New York and Los Angeles, Bill Bratton, to advise the government on handling gang violence.

Mr Bratton is credited with dramatically reducing crime after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, where fires burned and violence raged across the city for six days, following a row over racism.

He has warned that communities cannot arrest their way out of gang crime and says it is important to tackle the underlying issues.