2011 England riots

2011 England riots
2011 England riots
Carpetright store after Tottenham riots.jpg
Firefighters douse a shop and flats destroyed by arson during the initial rioting in Tottenham, London
Date 6–10 August 2011
Location Several districts of London, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Bristol and several other areas.[1][2]
Characteristics Rioting, looting, arson, mugging, assault, murder
Reported fatalities and injuries
5 deaths[3][4][5]
16+ members of public injured[6][7][8]
186 police officers injured + 5 police dogs[9][10][11]

Between 6 and 10 August 2011, several London boroughs and districts of cities and towns across England suffered widespread rioting, looting and arson.

Following a peaceful march on 6 August 2011 in relation to the police response to the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by Metropolitan Police Service firearms officers on 4 August 2011, a riot began in Tottenham, North London. In the following days, rioting spread to several London boroughs and districts and eventually to some other areas of England, with the most severe disturbances outside London occurring in Bristol and cities in the Midlands and North West of England. Related localised outbreaks also occurred in many smaller towns and cities in England.

The riots were characterised by rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels. As a result, British Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from his holiday in Italy and other government and opposition leaders also ended their holidays to attend to the matter. All police leave was cancelled and Parliament was recalled on 11 August to debate the situation.

As of 15 August, about 3,100 people had been arrested, of whom more than 1,000 had been charged.[12] Arrests, charges and court proceedings continue, with courts working extended hours. There were a total 3,443 crimes across London linked to the disorder.[13]

Five people died and at least 16 others were injured as a direct result of related violent acts. An estimated £200 million worth of property damage was incurred, and local economic activity was significantly compromised.

Police action was blamed for the initial riot, and the subsequent police reaction was criticised as being neither appropriate nor sufficiently effective. The riots have generated significant ongoing debate among political, social and academic figures about the causes and context in which they happened.[9][12][14][15]


Background to the initial disturbances in London

The riots occurred about 26 years after Broadwater Farm riot in the same region,[16] which were unrelated to the 2011 riots.

Police shooting of Mark Duggan

Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale, location of the shooting

On 4 August 2011, a police officer shot dead 29-year-old Mark Duggan during an attempt to arrest him, on the Ferry Lane bridge, next to Tottenham Hale station.[17][18][19][20] It is not yet known why police were attempting to arrest Duggan, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said that the planned arrest was part of Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime within the black community.[15] The incident had been referred to the IPCC,[17][21] which is standard practice if death or serious injury follows police contact.[22]

After the shooting, the media widely reported that a bullet was found embedded in a police radio, implying Duggan fired on the police.[23] Friends and relatives of Duggan are reported to have said that he was unarmed.[24] The Guardian later reported that initial ballistics tests on the bullet recovered from the police radio indicate that it was a "very distinct" police issue hollow-point bullet.[23][25] The IPCC later stated that a loaded Bruni BBM blank-firing pistol, converted to fire live ammunition, was recovered from the scene.[26][27][28][29] It was wrapped in a sock and there was no evidence that it had been fired.[30]

On 13 August, the Independent Police Complaints Commission admitted that Duggan did not open fire, stating, "It seems possible that we may have verbally led journalists to [wrongly] believe that shots were exchanged". The bullet that had lodged in an officer's radio is believed to have been an overpenetration, having passed through Duggan’s body.[31][32]

At lunchtime on 6 August, 7 hours before the march and subsequent riot took place, a meeting was called by police between local community leaders, councillors and members of police advisory groups. In this meeting, police were warned several times that there could possibly be another riot similar to those seen at Broadwater Farm in 1985 if local concerns regarding the death were not addressed.[33][34]

Protest march

On 6 August a protest was held, initially peacefully, beginning at Broadwater Farm and finishing at Tottenham police station.[35] The protest was organised by friends and relatives of Duggan to demand justice for the family.[15][36][37] Rioting occurred shortly after about 120 people marched from the Broadwater Farm estate to Tottenham Police Station via the High Road.[38] The group of some 200 people demanded that a senior local police officer come out to speak to them. They stayed in front of the police station hours longer than they originally planned because they were not satisfied with the seniority of the officers available at the time. A younger and more aggressive crowd arrived at the scene around dusk, some carrying weapons. Further violence broke out based on an allegation that the police had attacked a 16-year-old girl.[14][16][39]


Rioters attempt to loot from a cycle shop in Chalk Farm, Camden
Bank workers in Walthamstow observe the destruction which was caused in the early hours of the morning

The 6 August peaceful march in Tottenham was followed by rioting and looting, first in Tottenham and later in Tottenham Hale retail park.[40] The spread of news and rumours about the previous evening's disturbances in Tottenham sparked riots during the night of 7 August in the London districts of Brixton, Enfield, Islington and Wood Green and in Oxford Circus in the centre of London.[40]

The morning of 8 August was quiet, but by evening areas across London were affected by widespread looting, arson and violence, with significant outbreaks in parts of Battersea, Brixton, Bromley, Camden, Chingford Mount, Croydon, Ealing, East Ham, Hackney, Lewisham, Peckham, Stratford, Waltham Forest and Woolwich. A man was found shot in Croydon, and died later in hospital. Another man who had been assaulted in Ealing died in hospital on 11 August. Localised outbreaks of copycat actions were reported outside London – notably in Birmingham, Bristol, Gloucester, Gillingham and Nottingham.[40][41]

Following a greatly increased police presence, London was quiet on 9 August, but copycat actions continued in Birmingham (where, according to the police account, eleven shots were fired at police, including at a police helicopter, and petrol bombs thrown at officers[42][dead link]) and Nottingham and spread to Leicester, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in the Midlands and to Bury, Liverpool, Manchester, Rochdale, Salford, Sefton and Wirral in the north-west of England.[40] On 10 August, London remained quiet while hundreds of arrests were being made by the police. Three men were killed in Birmingham in a hit-and-run incident related to the disturbances. Looting and violence continued in two locations around Manchester and Liverpool.[40]

Throughout the rioting, many of the looters did not bother to cover their faces as they raided electrical shops, sports shops and off-licences. Some posed for pictures with stolen goods, posting them on social-networking sites.[43]

There were reports that the BlackBerry Messenger service was used by looters to organise their activities, and that inflammatory and inaccurate accounts of events on social media sites may have incited disturbances.[44][45][46]


A burnt-out building being doused with water. Built for the London Co-operative Society in 1930 as Union Point, the building included a Carpetright on the ground floor and many flats on the upper storeys.

Deaths and injuries

Trevor Ellis

26-year-old Trevor Ellis, of Brixton Hill, died following a shooting in Croydon, South London.[3][47][48] His family denied reports that Ellis, who had come from the Brixton area to Croydon with a group of friends, had been involved in looting.[49][50]

Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir

On 10 August, in Winson Green, Birmingham, three men – Haroon Jahan, 21 and brothers Shahzad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31 – were killed in a hit-and-run incident while attempting to protect their neighbourhood from rioters and looters.[4][51][52] A 26 year old man, a 23 year old man and a 17 year old youth appeared in court charged with murder and were remanded in custody.[53]

Richard Mannington Bowes

A 68-year-old man, Richard Mannington Bowes, died on 11 August after he was attacked while attempting to stamp out a litter-bin fire in Ealing on the evening of 8 August.[54]

Bowes was attacked by members of a mob on 8 August 2011, while attempting to extinguish a fire that had been deliberately started in industrial bins on Spring Bridge Road. The attack inflicted severe head injuries which resulted in a coma. The assault was caught on CCTV and reportedly filmed on mobile phones by associates of the alleged assailant.[55] The attack on Bowes was witnessed by several police officers, but due to the number of rioters they were unable to come to his aid until riot squad officers pushed back the rioters while being attacked in order to reach Bowes. A line of officers then held back the rioters as paramedics arrived.[56] Bowes's wallet and phone had been stolen, and police faced difficulty in identifying him. He died of his injuries in St Mary's Hospital on 11 August 2011 after being removed from life support.[57][58]

Many tributes were paid to Bowes, including Ealing Council who flew the Union Flag at half-mast over its town hall and announced the launch of a relief fund in his name,[59] and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who described him as a hero.[60]

A 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of Bowes' murder, rioting and committing three burglaries;[61][62] he was released on bail. A 16-year-old male who lives in Hounslow was charged with murdering Bowes, violent disorder and four burglaries.[63][64] He appeared at Croydon Magistrates' Court on 16 August 2011, where he was remanded in custody until his appearance at the Central Criminal Court on 18 August 2011.[63] His 31 year-old mother[65] was charged with perverting the course of justice.[63]


Burnt-out and vandalised car in Hackney with graffiti
Double-deck bus burning in 2011 England riots

In London, between Monday afternoon and the early hours of Tuesday, 14 people were injured by rioters. These included a 75-year-old woman who suffered a broken hip in Hackney.[6]

In Barking, North-East London, 20-year-old Malaysian student Mohammad Asyraf Haziq was beaten and then robbed twice by looters emptying his rucksack. Footage of the mugging was uploaded onto YouTube. He suffered a broken jaw, requiring surgery.[8][66]

In Chingford, North-East London, three police officers were hit by a car used as a getaway vehicle by a group who looted the Aristocrat store on Chingford Mount Road. Two of the officers were seriously injured and taken to hospital.[67]

In total, 186 police officers were injured.[9] Five police dogs were also reported injured.[68]

10 firefighters were injured as the London Fire Brigade dealt with over 100 serious fires caused by the disturbances. The LFB also reported that eight of its fire engines had their windscreens smashed and that two fire cars were attacked.[69]

Property and business damage

Vehicles, homes and shops were attacked and set alight. At least 100 homes were destroyed in the arson and looting.[70] Shopkeepers estimated the damages in their Tottenham Hale and Tottenham branches at several million pounds.[71] The riots caused the irretrievable loss of heritage architecture.[72] It was estimated that retailers lost at least 30,000 trading hours.[73]

The Association of British Insurers said they expect the industry to pay out in excess of £200 million.[74] Estimated losses in London were indicated to be in the region of £100m.[75]

On 8 August 2011, a Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield at Enfield Lock, which also acted as the primary distribution centre for independent music distributor PIAS Entertainment Group, was destroyed by fire.[76][77] Initially, because millions of items of stock were lost, including most of PIAS's inventory, it was thought that long-term damage to the British independent music industry might result.[76][78][79][80] As of 18 August 2011 (2011 -08-18), PIAS confirmed that their operations are back to normal.[81] On 11 August 2011, London police reported that they had arrested three teenagers in connection with the warehouse fire.[82]

The Financial Times reported that an analysis showed that 48,000 local businesses - shops, restaurants, pubs and clubs - had suffered financial losses as a result of the looting and rioting in English streets.[83]


Four London buses were set on fire during the riots.

  • Evening of 6 August: Arriva London North DAF DB250L/Alexander ALX400 double decker DLA284 (Y484 UGC) was destroyed on Tottenham High Road.
  • Evening of 8 August: Abellio London Dennis Trident/Alexander ALX400 double decker 9755 (YN51 KVM) was destroyed at Reeves Corner, Croydon.
  • Late afternoon of 8 August: Go Ahead London Central Volvo B9TL/Wright Gemini 2 double decker WVL302 was set alight in Peckham, but not destroyed.
  • Late afternoon of 8 August: First Capital Dennis Dart SLF/Caetano Nimbus single decker DMC41496 (LK03 NMF) was set alight at Dalston, but not destroyed.

Many other London buses were damaged, with broken windows etc.

On 9 August, Croydon's Tramlink was partly shut down due to damage inflicted along its route.[84] Transport for London, London Overground and London Underground shut Barking, Peckham Rye and Harrow-on-the-Hill and Hackney Central stations. The train operating company Southern later announced that trains were not stopping at many stations in south London.[84] National Express Coaches stopped serving Wolverhampton and suburban stops in the Birmingham area (but not Birmingham Coach Station itself) as well as Manchester (but not Manchester Airport).[85]

Sporting fixtures

Five Football League Cup games due to be played on 9 and 10 August were postponed after requests from police due to the riots. The games at Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace and West Ham United were all postponed.[86][87][88] There was also uncertainty as to the Third Test cricket match between India and England, at Edgbaston in Birmingham, but the match was played.[89][90]

The international football friendly match between England and the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium due to take place on 10 August was cancelled,[87] as well as the international friendly between Ghana and Nigeria scheduled for 9 August at Vicarage Road, Watford.[91][92]

Tottenham Hotspur's opening game of the 2011–12 Premier League season against Everton on 13 August was postponed.[93][94] The League Two game between Cheltenham Town and Swindon Town, due to be played the same day, was also initially postponed until further consultation allowed Gloucestershire Police to provide the required resources.[95]


"Keep Calm and Candy On" graffito on boards covering the windows of the Cyber Candy store in Upper Bull Street, Birmingham, smashed in the riots


Following the initial disorder in Tottenham, the constituency Labour MP David Lammy appealed for calm, saying that "true justice can only follow a thorough investigation of the facts"[96] and that Tottenham had had its "heart ripped out" by the riots.[97] He said that rioters were not representative of the local community as a whole[98] and insisted that the Independent Police Complaints Commission must fully establish the circumstances of Mark Duggan's death.[99] Lammy voiced concerns that the EDL and BNP were playing on the London riots and people's fears to advance their political motives.[100]

Streatham's Labour MP Chuka Umunna condemned the violence in Brixton and Tottenham.[101][102][103] Umunna called for the BlackBerry Messenger service, used by some of the rioters to coordinate their activities, to be "temporarily disabled" between 6 pm and 6 am BST.[104]

The use of BlackBerry Messenger has led to arrests – a Colchester man was detained under the Serious Crimes Act for organising a water-fight through the service.[105]

John Randall, the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip said: "It’s a small minority of people causing the trouble. The events in Ealing brought it home, it’s just down the Uxbridge Road."[106] Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott called for the introduction of a curfew.

Newark MP Patrick Mercer, formerly a British Army colonel, called for the deployment of water cannon.[107] In December 2010 Theresa May, the Home Secretary, had said that the deployment of water cannon by police forces on the British mainland was an operational decision which had been "resisted until now by senior police officers."[108] On 9 August 2011, May rejected their use and said: "The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities." Ken Livingstone, the former London mayor, said "The issue of water cannon would be very useful given the level of arson we are seeing here." Scotland Yard said officers did not have any water cannon and if their use was approved they would have to be brought over from Northern Ireland.[109]

May said: "I condemn utterly the violence in Tottenham... Such disregard for public safety and property will not be tolerated, and the Metropolitan Police have my full support in restoring order."[110] She returned to the UK from holiday early to meet with senior police officials on 8 August.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office added: "The rioting in Tottenham last night was utterly unacceptable. There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or for the damage to property."[110]

The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said that the riots were "completely unacceptable" and described the rioters as "needless and opportunistic".[111][112]

London's mayor, Boris Johnson, who cut short a holiday in Canada to return to the UK on 9 August, said: "I'm appalled at the scenes of violence and destruction in Tottenham"[98] whilst his deputy Kit Malthouse told a Sky News reporter that "criminal elements were to blame for the trouble."[98]

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the "sickening scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing" and told rioters "You will feel the full force of the law. And if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment."[113]

Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell called the damage caused in the London Borough of Croydon "sickening".[114]

In a strongly worded criticism of what he deems to be a misplaced "hyper-sensitivity about race", dating back to the Macpherson Report of 1999, Civitas director David Green attributed the reluctance by police to use force to a fear of disciplinary action. He said that "officers in charge of a riot think it safer to wait for orders from the top".[115]

In a public speech on 15 August, David Cameron blamed a "broken society" in "moral collapse"[116] – broad societal change themes common to his party's election campaign theme Broken Britain.

The city councils of Manchester and Salford are reported to be investigating their powers for ways of evicting tenants if they, or their children, have been involved in violence or looting in their cities.[117] The London Borough of Greenwich also stated on its website: "We shall seek the eviction of anyone living in council property if they are found to have been engaged in criminal acts."[118] On 13 August Wandsworth Council served the first eviction notice, on the mother of an 18-year-old suspect.[119]


Several countries issued warnings advising caution to travellers visiting Britain during the riots.[120]

German far-left activists suggested using the riots in England as a role model to be applied to their political activities in Germany as well.[121]


The riots were described by one journalist as "the worst disturbances of their kind since the 1995 Brixton riots".[14][16][122]

Commentators likened the riots to the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985, during which a police officer, Keith Blakelock, was murdered.[99][123] The disturbances were preceded by calls for better oversight of the Metropolitan Police, repeating observations which go back to the death of Stephen Lawrence and the New Cross Fire. In April 2011[124] there was a large nonviolent march to Scotland Yard as a result of the death of Smiley Culture.[125] The very widespread scale of the violence prompted comparisons with the Gordon Riots of 1780.[126]

The Sun called the scenes "shameful" and lamented that "[w]ith the London Olympics less than a year away, our reputation is being damaged at the worst moment". It added: "This is anarchy, pure and simple. And it presents a serious threat to life and property."[127]

The Daily Telegraph's editorial said: "What we have experienced in London and elsewhere since Saturday night is a wholly new phenomenon: violent disorder whose sole intent is criminal... In such circumstances, there can be only one response if the law-abiding majority is to be protected: the thugs must be taught to respect the law of the land the hard way."[128]

The Guardian called on the public to back the police: "... Britain's 2011 riots have become a defining contest between disorder and order. In that contest, important caveats notwithstanding, there is only one right side to be on. The attacks, the destruction, the criminality and the reign of fear must be stopped. The rule of law in the cities of Britain must not only be defended against delinquent destruction. It must also be enforced."[129]

In its 9 August leading article, The Independent said the police's handling of Mark Duggan's death "looks to have been poor", and that there is "context of mistrust of the police here." The paper added that "it is spurious to draw a connection between that disaffection [by the inner-city youth] and specific outbreaks of violence of the sort we have seen in recent days."[130]

Peter Hitchens of the Daily Mail, disputed the idea that the events were riots on the basis that they were fundamentally apolitical. He further stated: "This is an equal-opportunity crime wave. The lawbreakers are not from any distinct ethnic group, and attempts to explain this behaviour on these ground are baseless and poisonous."[131]

Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple wrote an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, in which he blamed the "sense of entitlement" that he sees as being common among Britain's youth as a cause for the riots, and said that British youth are today among "the most unpleasant and violent in the world" as a result.[132][133]

Some journalists made comparisons between these riots and the 2005 riots in France.[134][135] In both cases, the unrest started with the death of a young person during a confrontation with the police.[134] In fact, a television report by France 2, broadcast in November 2005, showed a visit by a delegation from Évry (just outside Paris) to Tottenham, with the report calling "Tottenham part of London 'regularly shaken by riots' in earlier decades, where 'a lot of money was invested' and 'the promotion of ethnic minorities', had been made a priority."[134]

Writing in Pakistan's Newsline, Mahir Ali likened the government's response to that of Margaret Thatcher to the 1981 England riots.[136]


'Peace wall' in the Manchester Arndale Centre
A number of campaigns were launched, aiming to foster greater civic pride and respect in their cities.

Many people called for the government to urge the police to deploy anti-riot methods often used outside Britain, such as water cannon and baton rounds, the use of which has long been resisted by senior police commanders and politicians.[137][138][139]

Pauline Pearce, a 45 year old woman from Hackney, was filmed close to the rioting, furiously chastising looters over their criminal and selfish behaviour.[140][141][142] She is seen holding a walking stick and gesturing.[143] The resulting Heroine of Hackney video subsequently went viral. Its rapid spread was helped by tweeting from famous people such as newspaper editor Piers Morgan[141] and former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.[144] Pearce was hailed as a heroine for helping to ease tensions in Hackney; her influence was acknowledged by politicians[145][146] and the national press.[147][148][149] MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, has invited Pearce to the Houses of Parliament.[150] Speaking to The Australian newspaper, Pearce described the looting and vandalism as being "heart-breaking" and also contrasted people's relative poverty with expenditure for the Olympic Games.[151] Pearce has since been featured in The Spectator, dismissing David Starkey's view that hip-hop culture was partly to blame for the riots.[152] In September 2011, she was awarded the Team London Award at the annual Peace Awards by Boris Johnson.[153]

Still image from Heroine of Hackney speech

On Amazon, sales of baseball bats and truncheons increased significantly overnight.[154][155] Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh stated: "We are already seeing a community kickback. People are angry. This is their neighbourhoods that are at stake."[155]

Three men killed in a hit-and-run incident in Birmingham, Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali, and Abdul Musavir Tariq, were described as heroes for dying while attempting to defend their neighbourhood.[156][157] Tariq Jahan, the father of 21 year-old victim Haroon Jahan, gave a speech appealing for calm, social unity and an end to the violence, hours after his son's death. Jahan was hailed as a hero and a patriot for helping to ease tensions in Birmingham; his influence was acknowledged by politicians and the national press, receiving an award at the 2011 Pride of Britain Awards.[158] [159][160][161] Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said of him: "Uncomplaining, in control of his emotions, Tariq Jahan reminds us of what it means to be British."[162] The Financial Times described Jahan as eloquent and inspiring, and said "His selfless intervention contrasted with the rapacious self-interest of the looters, and was a timely reminder of the obligations of community."[163]

Tens of thousands of users of social networking sites coordinated clean-up operations of their local shopping areas and streets. Social media sites Twitter and Facebook were also used for reporting information on the riots and to co-ordinate a voluntary citizens' operation to clear up riot-hit areas.[164][165][166] In Clapham Junction, dozens of volunteers carrying brooms turned out to assist with clean-up efforts.[167][168] On Facebook, over 900,000 people joined a group entitled 'Supporting the Met Police against the London rioters'.[43]

Manchester City Councillor Pat Karney, the city centre spokesperson for Manchester City Council, said: "The true Mancunian civic spirit has been shown in Manchester today." Staff from city centre businesses and Manchester Metropolitan University joined the volunteers, as food outlets gave out free drinks and snacks.[169] There were several fundraising initiatives to help independent business owners re-build their businessess and livelihoods.[170][171]

A petition was submitted to the UK government proposing that any convicted rioters have their benefit payments cut. This petition has been signed by over 200,000 people.[172]

A petition on the UK government website demanding convicted rioters to be banished to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland was set up in the summer of 2011. The reaction caused a public outcry in Scotland and eventually Westminster offered an apology to Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.[173]


On 8 and 9 August, people from Bangladeshi, Kurdish, Pakistani and Turkish communities chased down masked youths in several areas of North and East London, including Green Street, Hackney, Haringey, and Tower Hamlets.[154][174][175][155][176] Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan praised the British Muslim community for their brave and responsible reactions to the crisis.[162]

On 9 August, vigilantes included locals in Enfield which included several members of the English Defence League,[154][177] locals and supporters of Millwall F.C. in Eltham,[155][178][179] and the Sikh communities in Southall,[154] East Ham, Ilford, and Romford.[180]

Sangat TV and Sikh Channel urged their viewers to protect Sikh temples after a report that one was attacked in Birmingham.[181] On the night of 9–10 August 2011, following violence, arson and rioting in London, members of the Sikh community in Southall volunteered to stand guard at various city Gurdwaras, with as many as 200 to 300 Sikhs from different age groups gathered in various Gurudwaras across Southall to safeguard their places of worship from rioters.[182][183] The Sikhs drew praise from Prime Minister David Cameron for this action.[184]

On 10 August in Eltham, police clashed with a bottle-throwing crowd of about 200 vigilantes, including many English Defence League members.[185] It was reported that that 50 EDL members joined forces with locals to patrol the streets.[186][187] That same day, a senior police officer said that some vigilante groups were hampering police operations in London.[188] 90 EDL members also joined vigilantes in Enfield.[186]

Race relations

Research conducted by the University of Nottingham suggested that race relations in Britain have deteriorated since the riots and that prejudice towards ethnic minorities is on the rise.[189] Groups such as the EDL and the BNP were said to be exploiting the situation.[190] After the hit-and-run incident in Birmingham, in which three Asian men were killed by a black driver, racial tensions between blacks and Asians in Birmingham increased; hostilities were diffused by the public appeals for an end to violence by Tariq Jahan, father of one of the victims.[160][191]

The effects of black culture were discussed by historian David Starkey in the 12 August edition of the BBC's Newsnight TV programme. Starkey singled out the influence of black gangster and rap culture on youths of all races, contrasting contemporary youth patois with the speech patterns of black Tottenham MP David Lammy, who, Starkey asserted, "sounded white". The author Dreda Say Mitchell countered his argument by saying that there is no one single "black culture".[192]

Some commentators remarked on the apparently high proportion of black people involved in the riots and took the view that there was a disproportionately high number of rioters who were black, compared to the overall demographics of the United Kingdom.[193] In October 2011 a report was published by the Ministry of Justice providing demographic statistics of the people charged over participation the riots. Overall, 46% of people brought before a courtroom were black, disproportionate to the average UK population;[194][195] however the figures revealed varying demographics in different areas when compared to local populations. For example in Haringey, the figures revealed that 55% of defendants in court over riot-related charges were black, compared to a 17% black population; but in Salford, 94% of rioters in court were white, compared to an 88% white population.[196] Additionally, looters from 44 foreign countries were jailed, with Jamaicans representing the largest group but also including Somalians, Poles, Colombians, Iraqis, Congolese, Vietnamese and Zimbabweans.[197]

The Ministry of Justice report also noted that rioters brought before the courts were disproportionately male (90%) and young (26% were aged 10-17, 27% were aged 18-20 and only 5% were aged over 40).



The Metropolitan Police Service launched Operation Withern, an investigation into the events leading up to and during the riots.[198][199] The operation was led by Detective Superintendent John Sweeney of the Metropolitan Police Service, with detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, specialist investigators from the Public Order Branch, and police support staff. [200][201] The Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Steve Kavanagh, stated that the number of officers deployed tripled between 6 and 7 August.[202]

The BBC reported that West Midlands riot police officers were issued with plastic bullets to use against looters, but that none were fired.[203] Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Stephen Kavanagh confirmed that police in London were considering using baton rounds against rioters, not previously used by mainland police in public order operations (though they were first approved for use in England and Wales in 2001).[204]

The Metropolitan Police Service has assigned 450 detectives to hunt for rioters and looters.[205] The list of photographed looters has been made available on their website.[206] Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester Police criticised "unprecedented" criminality. On 10 August, he warned: "Hundreds and hundreds of people, we have your image, we have your face, we have your acts of wanton criminality on film."[207]

Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry, are reported to have contacted the police to offer help in investigating the use of their system for the organisation of riots.[46]

According to The Independent, the costs to the Metropolitan Police of policing the disorder and disturbances in London are expected to exceed £34 million. This could be more than their total bill for the policing of all major public disorder events in the year from April 2010 to March 2011.[208]

Arrests and charges

As of 15 August, about 3100 people had been arrested, of whom more than 1100 had appeared in court.[12] As of 25 August the BBC report that more than 2,000 people have been arrested connected with the disorder in London.[209]

Justice system

Sentencing guidelines

It was reported in mid-August that some courts were advised by senior justice clerks to deal harshly with offences committed during the disturbances.[210] The advice was said to tell the courts that they could ignore existing sentencing guidelines and hand down heavy sentences.[210] David Cameron defended the courts for handing out tough sentences, while some Liberal Democrat MPs and civil rights groups criticised some sentences being handed down.[211][212][213] Groups of lawyers complained that Crown Prosecutors were opposing bail in more cases than usual.[214]

Trials and sentencing

As of 1 September 2011 (2011 -09-01), the BBC report that official Ministry of Justice figures show that of the 1,566 people that have appeared before magistrates on charges connected with the disorder, that 1,027 had been in London, 190 in Greater Manchester, 132 in the West Midlands, 67 in Merseyside and 64 in Nottingham.[215]

Sentences of four years in a Young Offender Institution were given to two men who promoted riots via Facebook. The proposed events in Northwich and Warrington were not attended by any other people.[216][217] These sentences were affirmed on appeal by the Court of Appeal. Giving the judgment of the court, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Judge, sitting with Sir John Thomas and Lord Justice Leveson, stated that there is "an overwhelming obligation on sentencing courts to do what they can to ensure the protection of the public", that "the imposition of severe sentences, intended to provide both punishment and deterrence, must follow" and that "[t]hose who deliberately participate in disturbances of this magnitude, causing injury and damage and fear to even the most stout-hearted of citizens, and who individually commit further crimes during the course of the riots are committing aggravated crimes". The appeals were dismissed.[218]

A woman who had not taken part in the riots received five months for receiving a pair of stolen shorts. The sentence was later reduced on appeal.[219] Manchester police used Twitter to celebrate the five month sentence; they later apologised and removed the tweet.[220] A teenager was freed when prosecutors found evidence he had been wrongly charged with arson. While in prison, his own flat was burned down.[221][222] The detaining of under-18s without criminal records was criticised by UNICEF in October 2011 for possibly breaching the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.[223]

Suggested contributory factors

The causes of the 2011 England riots both immediate and long term have been the subject of media and academic debate. Several speculations have emerged as to what the likely contributory factors might be for the riots; from socio-economic causes focusing on unemployment and spending cuts, as well as social media, gang culture and criminal opportunism. The House of Commons Home Affairs select committee will begin examining the police response to the riots in late 2011. The leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, has called for a public inquiry into the wider causes of the riots and has stated that his party will set up such an inquiry if the coalition fails to do so.[224] The UK was shaken by worst riots in decades.[225]

A YouGov poll was carried out on the 8–9 August 2011 for The Sun asking what those surveyed believed to be the main cause of the riots.[226] In it, 42% of those polled thought "criminal behaviour" to be the main cause, whilst 26% thought "gang culture" was, 8% thought "government cuts" were, 5% thought "unemployment" was, 5% thought "racial tensions" was and 3% thought "poor policing" was. In a ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent On Sunday, in which the question was "do you agree or disagree with these statements about the recent riots?", 90% of those polled agreed that the "Police should be allowed use to water cannon to disperse rioters", 90% agreed that "There is no excuse whatsoever for the violent rioting and looting over the last few days", 61% agreed that "Government ministers failed to return to their desks quickly enough from holidays" and 50% agreed that "The Government's response to the economic crisis (e.g. cuts to services, unemployment, reduced education funding) is helping fuel the rioters".[227]

Poor relations with police

The riots in Tottenham after the death of Mark Duggan were initially blamed on poor relations between the police and the black community.[228][229] Professor Gus John from the University of London has argued that the tactical use of frequent "Stop and search", particularly of young black men, has caused resentment of the police in the black community.[230]

According to David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, the "cracks that already existed between the police and the community became deep fissures".[99][231]

Social exclusion

Camila Batmanghelidjh writing in The Independent blames social exclusion and social deprivation.[232]

In a House of Commons debate on the riots Home Secretary Theresa May stated that the riots were symptomatic of a "wider malaise" including worklessness, illiteracy, and drug abuse but also stated that "Everybody, no matter what their background or circumstances, has the freedom to choose between right and wrong".[233]

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair writing in The Observer, stated that the riots were not caused by a broken society, but due to a group of young, alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream and who live in a culture at odds with any canons of proper behaviour, he said that this is found in virtually every developed nation.[234]

Various journalists have identified poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor as causative factors.[235][236][237]

Max Hastings has blamed a culture of welfare dependence.[238]

A journalist on Al Jazeera suggested a similarity to the disenfranchisement behind the Arab Spring revolutionary wave of 2011. Links were made to high youth unemployment and general disenfranchisement.[239]

A study by the The Financial Times published in September 2011 found a strong link between rioting and deprivation.[240]

Family breakdown

Christina Odone writing in the Daily Telegraph links the riots to a lack of male role models and argues that "Like the overwhelming majority of youth offenders behind bars, these gang members have one thing in common: no father at home."[241] This has been linked further with England's having the "worst record in family breakdown in Europe".[242]

Government cuts

The spending cuts of the coalition government in the United Kingdom has also been cited as a cause. Ken Livingstone, the Labour Candidate for Mayor of London in 2012 has argued that the "The economic stagnation and cuts being imposed by the Tory government inevitably create social division."[243] Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats political party, made it clear that the government's planned cuts to police budgets will go ahead.[244]

The local government budget had been cut in the past year so Haringey Council, which includes Tottenham and Tottenham Hale, decided to close eight of its 13 youth clubs in 2011, rather than save money through increased efficiency or make cuts in other areas.[245]

Scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, removing of funding for courses where the student already has an equal or lower level qualification and trebling of university tuition fees, combined with high youth unemployment has placed the British youth 'between a rock and a hard place' alienating and angering the youth population.[246] Proponents of this argument say that Scottish youth did not riot partly because Scottish students do not have to pay tuition fees.[247]

Cuts in public services[231][248][249][250][251][252]

Youth clubs and the like closing.[253]


David Lammy MP has said that Tottenham has the highest unemployment rate in London and the eighth highest in the United Kingdom.[254] The number of people chasing every one job vacancy in Haringey has been put at 23 and 54 in separate reports, and fears had spread of disorder after youth club closures in recent months.[255][256][257]

Low economic growth and highest unemployment rate in decades.[231][258][259][260][261]

Gang culture

In a Newsnight discussion on 12 August, historian David Starkey blamed black gangster culture, saying that it had influenced youths of all races.[192]

Criminal opportunism

During riots, on 9 August 2011, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said: I think this is about sheer criminality. That is what we have seen on the streets. The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen - this is sheer criminality, and let's make no bones about it.[262] Paul Hobbs, London correspondent for One News (New Zealand) said that looters are not politically motivated and called the riots "recreational violence".[263] A Manchester rioter said to a BBC correspondent: Every time I go into town I just think how the shops got smashed up in 2011 by all of us, I just laugh about it every time I go back in now."[264]

The BBC reported that the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police had stated that he thought that the motivation for rioters targeting the city centre was not anger, but greed.[265]

Moral decay at the top

Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne suggested that moral decay is just as bad at the top of society as it is at the bottom, with the rich and powerful generating anger among the British population. He cited the MPs' expenses scandal, bankers' bonuses, and the phone hacking scandal as setting poor examples.[266]

Furthermore, discussions led by Anand Mahapatra at the Realist forum Reality Development Lab concluded that, on an economic level, the riots were due to the predictions by Karl Marx in Das Kapital of class struggle. He suggests that the reasons given for rioting were consistent with the socialist perspective.

Failure of the penal system

Kenneth Clarke, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, writing in The Guardian, described the riots in part as "an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes". He drew attention to the statistic that almost three-quarters of the adults who had been charged with offences related to the disorder already had a criminal record. Clarke characterised this as the legacy of "a broken penal system", one that did not have a good record for preventing reoffending. He stated he is proposing radical new measures intended to focus on robust punishment and on delivering reductions in reoffending.[267]

See also


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External links

External images
Images of the Tottenham riot on 6 August 2011 (BBC)
Map of the Tottenham riot on 6 August 2011 (Google Maps)
Tottenham Riots: Torched houses, cars in London violence aftermath (YouTube)
Damage at Leyton Mills Currys last night (TwitPic)

Media related to 2011 riots in England at Wikimedia Commons

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