The television news coverage of the rioting and looting that has rampaged through the streets of London and now spread to other cities is appalling. Over the last three days not only have homes and businesses been destroyed, but also countless lives put at risk. Britain’s reputation overseas is tarnished as the images are relayed around the world.
As the smoke still rises from shattered buildings, trendy social commentators run to the airwaves talking about protest and youth disenfranchisement, in an attempt to justify this unacceptable behaviour. These aren’t protesters, they are criminals. This isn’t about disenfranchisement but deliberate and organised attack by the mob. In a democratic society, you protest with placards marching to the town hall or Parliament. You don’t protest by smashing shop windows and stealing wide screen televisions and cases of vodka.
In our country, police officers, not politicians undertake operational decisions. Although both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have returned early from holiday, they should not decide police tactics. They should back our police officers by making sure they have political support and the immediate resources to end these riots. Then it is time for the courts to punish these criminals. Any magistrate or judge, who hand down soft sentences because an individual is young or comes from a troubled background, will need to hang their heads in shame. If you are old enough to lob petrol bombs, smash concrete through shop windows and steal iPhones, you are old enough to go to prison.
Once order is restored and these thugs are brought to justice is the time to start asking questions about the police tactics and response, as well as the social reasons that caused this mayhem. Until then, the priority is to restore order to our streets and start repairing these communities.
9th August 2011