PANORAMA’S INSIDE THE RIOTS reported that hundreds of culprits from August’s England riots are yet to be caught by police.
Televised yesterday, the programme focussed on the Manchester riots, which occurred on 9th August for three days. Using exclusive video footage and recorded interviews with the culprits made by the Greater Manchester Police, a number of factors became clear.
Firstly, the instigators of the violence were mainly youths from deprived backgrounds. A third of the rioters were under the age of 17, with the majority dependent on social benefits and living in the poorest neighbourhoods.
In fact, Salford, the area in Manchester where the riots took place, is the 15th most deprived area in the country. Some of the rioters simply followed the crowd as they violated and looted the streets and 80% already held criminal records.
One interviewed teenage rioter said the violence was an “unheard voice” from those who are “lower down the social system fighting back.”
Another interviewed suspect said “everyone’s sick of where they are” and claimed that even after working 9-5 in a factory, he still couldn’t afford the things he wanted.
Organisations such as the charity, Leap Confronting Conflict, work to prevent the escalation of youth violence by uncovering its roots and working with young people to equip them with the skills and resources to handle and convert conflict.
The second obvious factor is that the police were under-resourced and outnumbered by the rioters. Panorama played a recording of police desperately requesting back-up as approximately 500-800 aggressive youths approached the force.
Police Sergeant Peter Cunningham, who was taken to hospital after being hit by a breeze block thrown by a rioter, described the scene as a “war zone” and said he had never seen that level of violence towards police before.
Sixty-eight officers, forty in Salford, were injured by missiles. But only 12 arrests were made in one night, Panorama reported.
Chief Constable Peter Fahey of the Greater Manchester Police said that the Manchester riots were a result of “copycat violence” from the London riots, which were widely publicised.
He claimed that if the London riots would have been better controlled, it would not have flared the uncontrollable mayhem in Manchester.
Panorama’s Jeremy Vine interviewed MP Nick Herbert, Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, who said he expected the police to act swiftly in such a situation.
Vine questioned him on the £50 million budget cuts made to the force soon after the incidents. Herbert responded saying that 6,500 officers still remained in the force and as the budget cuts were made after the riots, it couldn’t be blamed for the police’s inability to handle the violence.
He seemed to miss an obvious and major point: if the police did not have enough officers or resources to comfortably cope with the riots that have passed, how will the cuts help them tackle a future uprising on the same scale, or even worse?
Herbert was also asked why the majority of convicts were sent to prison when the penal system is flawed, to which he responded that they needed to be punished and jailed.
The Greater Manchester Police have administered 220 officers dedicated to finding the remaining rioters, with Chief Constable Bob Tom heading the hunt.
VERA HQ in Manchester, which uses a facial recognition system to catch criminals, usually finds five or six offenders at a time, but are now responsible for searching for hundreds of faces.
The Greater Manchester Police claimed they are confident about catching the rioters that remain in society. “If they think they got away with that, think again”, he said.
The argument as to why exactly the riots happened, according to police, politicians and the public, continues. But it’s brought to light that the violence was an outcry of a section of society that is deeply troubled and overlooked by a community that do not have the means to handle or understand them.
The Panorama documentary, Inside the Riots, is available to watch in the UK on BBC iPlayer until 27th November.
– Monica Sarkar
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