UK Riots Prompt New Policing Advice

16 Aug 2011

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Theresa May in front of the remains of an Enfield distribution centre


Police in England and Wales are to be given new guidance on dealing with outbreaks of disorder on the streets, in the wake of last week's rioting, reports the BBC.

Home Secretary, Theresa May has asked for new advice on use of officers and tactics after several cities were hit.

She has said police initially deployed too few officers and that some appeared "reluctant" to use robust tactics.

In a speech later, she is also due to say last week's riots make the case for police reform more urgent than ever.

Mrs May's speech in London is expected to provoke further conflict with senior officers over the government's planned 20% police funding cuts and plans for directly elected officials to oversee police forces.

In a separate speech, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is to announce probation officers will be told to recommend community payback sentences for those convicted over the riots but not jailed. This would see them help to clean-up the areas they had damaged.

In her speech, Mrs May will announce that clearer guidance will be issued to chief constables about the number of officers that should be deployed during outbreaks of disorder and what kind of tactics can be used.

Advice will also be given on how many officers should be given public order training and when it is appropriate for other forces to provide help, known as "mutual aid".

The Inspectorate of Constabulary has been approached to help draw up the guidance. Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O'Connor warned earlier this year that more than two in five forces were unprepared to help police major protests.

Mrs May is also expected to praise officers who put themselves at risk during the riots. "We owe all police officers a debt of gratitude," she will say.

"One thing is clear: the experience of the last 10 days makes the case for police reform more urgent than ever."

Police last week defended their handling of the riots, rejecting suggestions from Mrs May and Prime Minister David Cameron that restoration of calm had been due to political intervention.

Cameron: "Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face"

Clegg is due to say in his speech later that rioters not given custodial sentences will be made to help clean up the areas they damaged and "look their victims in the eye".

The Ministry of Justice will instruct probation officers to recommend community payback sentences for those convicted over the riots but not jailed.

"They should have to see for themselves the consequences of their actions and they should be put to work cleaning up the damage and destruction they have caused so they don't do it again," he will say.

Meanwhile, the courts and tribunals service said legal advisers in court were advising magistrates to "consider whether their powers of punishment are sufficient in dealing with some cases arising from the recent disorder".

"All advice is given in open court and the parties are entitled to comment," a spokesperson said.

But the Judicial Office has denied that judges had been directed to jail everyone guilty of offences during last week's disorder.

"The senior judiciary has given no directive in relation to sentencing for offences committed during the recent widespread public disorder," a spokesperson said.

"When passing sentences judges consider many factors, including the punishment of offenders, the reduction of crime by deterrence, and the need to protect the public."

'Shallow and superficial'

On Monday, David Cameron said those demanding he reverse plans to cut police funding, which critics argue will see thousands of police lost from the front line, were "missing the point".

He said more officers were needed on the streets and pledged to cut bureaucracy.

Cameron said the disorder that had spread from London to parts of the East and West Midlands, Merseyside, Bristol, Manchester and Gloucester had put tackling "broken society" back at the top of his agenda.

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Cameron of reaching for "shallow and superficial answers" rather than lasting solutions and called for a "national conversation" about the causes of the riots.

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