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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Arson Fire Kills 52 in a Casino in Mexico

Armed men burst into a casino in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey on Thursday and set a fire that killed at least 52 people and injured several others, the authorities said.

The attack, shortly after 3 p.m. at the Casino Royale, was the worst massacre, according to tallies by Mexican news organizations, since a crackdown on drug gangs by the authorities and infighting among the gangs exploded more than five years ago.

Monterrey, once a peaceful business and industrial hub in Nuevo Leon State, has been hit hard by the violence as at least two major criminal organizations battle for control. Bodies are regularly found hanging from overpasses, several people have been killed in bars and the American consulate there has moved the younger children of its workers from the city.

Casinos, growing in number across the country, have also emerged lately as targets of extortion, violence and money laundering.

President Felipe Calderón, who began a major offensive against organized crime in 2006, lamented on his Twitter account “this perverse act of terror and barbarity” and said it showed the need to persevere in the fight against crime.

Nuevo Leon’s governor, Rodrigo Medina, said in a telephone interview broadcast on television by Milenio that it appears six men arrived at the casino in two vehicles, spread a flammable liquid and lighted it. El Norte, a local newspaper, quoted witnesses as saying that at least a dozen men entered and ordered everyone to get out, setting off a stampede for the few exits that was accompanied by explosions, smoke and flames.

Many victims appeared to be women and the elderly, who often bet there.

Mr. Medina said no motive had been determined, and he would not comment on reports that the casino may have refused to pay protection money to a gang.


Friday, 19 August 2011

Rioters push inmate total to record high

The prison population reached a record high today as officials said they were developing contingency plans to manage the unprecedented situation caused by hundreds of people being jailed over the riots.

Tough sentencing of those involved in the violence and looting by the courts saw the number of people behind bars in England and Wales rise by more than 100 a day over the past week.

But as some of the first appeals were heard, one woman who was jailed for five months after admitting that she accepted a pair of looted shorts from her housemate walked free from prison.

Mother-of-two Ursula Nevin, 24, who was sent down by a district judge at Manchester Magistrates' Court last week after she pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods, had her sentence reduced on appeal.

The Recorder of Manchester, Judge Andrew Gilbart QC, said the original decision was "wrong in principle" as he ordered that she should instead perform 75 hours of unpaid work for the community.

Nevin was in bed at the time of the widespread disorder in Manchester city centre where her lodger, Gemma Corbett, helped herself to clothing and footwear from the Vans store and then took them back to the house they shared in Stretford, Greater Manchester.

The Prison Service insisted it had enough space to cope with anyone jailed over the disorder, adding that it was developing its contingency plans to manage the "unprecedented situation".

This could involve bringing on new accommodation early, using extra places in the public and private estate, or reopening mothballed accommodation.

But there are currently no plans to halt the closure of Latchmere House prison in Richmond, Surrey, or Brockhill prison in Redditch, Worcestershire, which are set to shut next month.

And plans which would trigger police cells being used to accommodate prisoners have not yet been activated.

Immigration Minister Damian Green also said the Government wanted to deport any foreigners convicted over the riots, adding that it also had the power to cancel their visas.

The total number of prisoners in England and Wales hit 86,654 today, 723 more than last week's record high of 85,931 and less than 1,500 short of the usable operational capacity of 88,093, the Ministry of Justice figures showed.

A tough approach by the courts has seen two-thirds of those charged remanded in custody, compared with just one in 10 of those charged with serious offences last year.

Eoin McLennan-Murray, president of the Prison Governors' Association, said: "What is worrying is if the landscape of sentencing has changed.

"If the courts continue to be heavy-handed with other offences and use custody more readily than they have done previously then that would be problematic longer term."

Campaigners and lawyers have criticised the tougher sentences handed to those involved in rioting and looting last week as disproportionate and have urged the courts not to be swayed by "angry Britain".

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith also warned that Britain cannot simply arrest its way out of the problems which caused the riots that rocked the country.

The country must instead "address why young people join gangs, try to prevent them getting involved in the first place and help those who want to exit gang life", he said.

His comments, in an article in The Guardian newspaper, came as the Government appeared split over its response to the riots, with some Liberal Democrats criticising Tory support for lengthy sentences and suggestions that rioters should be deprived of benefits and evicted from their homes.

Geoff Dobson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the rapid increase in prison numbers meant parts of some jails were becoming "human warehouses" which will provide "a fast track to a criminal career" for first-time offenders.

Shadow prisons minister Helen Goodman said the Government has a "responsibility to ensure that the sentences handed down are being served safely".

The record came as an analysis showed that convicted rioters were being handed prison sentences which are on average 25% longer than normal.

Some 70% of defendants in 1,000 riot-related cases have been remanded in custody to await Crown Court trial, and 56 of 80 defendants already sentenced by magistrates have been handed immediate prison sentences.

Half of those jailed were charged with handling stolen goods or theft, receiving an average of 5.1 months, the study by The Guardian found. This is 25% longer than an average custodial sentence of 4.1 months for such crimes during 2010.

The outcry over sentencing began after Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were jailed for each setting up Facebook pages which encouraged people to riot. Even though no disorder occurred they were given four years each. Blackshaw plans to appeal against his punishment handed out by a judge at Chester Crown Court.

The Court of Appeal has not received any appeals so far about sentences handed out by the Crown Courts, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Office said.

"Anyone who wishes to appeal has 28 days from the passing of the sentence within which to do it. As and when appeals are received, the court is in a position to hear them promptly," she said.

Yesterday, Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions in England and Wales, warned that judges must remain dispassionate and called on the Sentencing Council to issue new guidelines for the courts as soon as possible.


Ursula Nevin slept through riots in Manchester but was jailed after accepting a pair of shorts looted by a friend

A woman who spent a week in prison separated from her two young children after she handled a pair of shorts looted from Manchester city centre during the riots by her lodger has been freed on appeal. Ursula Nevin, 24, of Stretford, Greater Manchester, slept through the riots, but was jailed for five months after admitting handling stolen goods looted by her lodger.

The day after the riot Nevin had tried on and decided to keep a pair of shorts her housemate Gemma Corbett, 24, looted from the Vans store in the Northern Quarter of the city.

Judge Andrew Gilbart QC sitting at Manchester crown court said the sentence had been "wrong in principle" because she had not been at the scene of the disturbances. A Facebook campaign had been set up to free her. The hearing was thought to be one of the first appeals to be heard on a sentence given at a magistrates' court involving the disturbances across England last week.

Nevin – who has two children aged one and five – was ordered to do 75 hours unpaid work instead. The judge said she must have felt she had been "trapped in a circle of hell".

Opening the case, Michael Morley said Nevin – who has no previous convictions – had the "misfortune" to have Gemma Corbett as a lodger.

The following day, police were tipped off that Corbett had been boasting about the haul and arrested her at the call centre where she worked in Sale. Corbett confessed to burglary and Nevin later admitted handling a pair of shorts taken in the raid.

Last week, she was jailed at Manchester magistrates court by a district judge, who told her she was supposed to be a role model for her children. But the sentence was criticised by civil rights campaigners who expressed general unease about the severity of some of the sentences being handed out.

Richard Vardon, representing Nevin at the appeal hearing, said the doting mother had been put in a terrible position by her housemate – and had been devastated to find herself separated from her children and in jail.

"She is absolutely disgusted by those who wreaked havoc on this city. She is both ashamed and humiliated by appearing before a crown court", he said.

"Hers has been a very public shame and a very public humiliation indeed. She was offered a pair of shorts which she quite foolishly and dishonestly decided to keep for herself. She's paid an extremely high price for her limited criminality."

Judge Gilbart said: "Ursula Nevin did not go into Manchester city centre – we regard it as wrong in principle that she was made the subject of a custodial sentence." Outside court, her supporters said: "She's happy, she does wants to get back to her kids and her family.

The judge, who is the recorder of Manchester, said he had indicated in previous sentencing remarks on looters that a distinction could be made for people receiving stolen goods who had not been physically present during the disorder throughout Manchester city centre and Salford shopping precinct last Tuesday.

He told her to leave the court and go and look after her children, as her relatives wept in the public gallery. Following her sentence last week, Greater Manchester Police were forced to apologise after someone gleefully tweeted the news of her five-month jail sentence.

Paul Mendelle QC, a former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, welcomed the Manchester court's decision to reduce Nevin's sentence to a non-custodial punishment. "Seventy-five hours of community work is still fairly stiff," he said. "She would normally have received a fine.

"It proves what a number of people have been saying that as time lends a certain amount of distance, the courts begin to see that some below have been over-reacting."

Successive appeal court judgments have established that those actually participating in widespread public disorder would normally expect a prison term, he added. "As recently as 2010, there was a court of appeal authority that said if you take part in this sort of behaviour [widespread public disorder] you must expect a prison term – even if you plead guilty.

"But even well educated young people don't pay a great deal of attention to sentencing authorities when they are making a nuisance of themselves. Charlie Gilmour [the Cambridge student who swung from the Cenotaph during student protests] received 16 months."

Senior lawyers have also expressed concern about the high proportion of suspects who have been remanded in custody following the riots, pointing out that bail conditions should not be used as a means of punishment or deterrence.

The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, said justice "must be administered effectively and fairly and with calm heads". "We must avoid unnecessary cost to the public purse that could arise from dealing with wrongful convictions or sentences that go on to be challenged," a spokesman said. The Citizens' Advice Bureau had also expressed misgivings earlier this week about excessively harsh sentences.

In another case, a man in Manchester was jailed for 16 months after stealing a doughnut during the riots. Thomas Downey, 48, was released from HMP Manchester on 9 August shortly before getting caught up in the riots. He attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting before downing a bottle of sherry and stumbling into a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop and stealing doughnuts. He admitted burglary and breach of an Asbo by entering part of the city centre from which he is prohibited.

Two young men who attempted to organise disturbances in their home towns on Facebook pages were this week jailed for four years each. Jordan Blackshaw, 20 and Perry Sutcliffe, 22, were jailed at Chester crown court after they organised events to which no one but the police turned up.


Police officer arrested over leaks

A police officer has been arrested in relation to leaks during the Scotland Yard phone-hacking investigation.

The 51-year-old detective constable was arrested at work on Thursday and has been released on bail until 29 September. He has also been suspended.

A 35-year-old has also been arrested by appointment as part of the hacking investigation, Operation Weeting.

The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said the officer's arrest was "hugely disappointing".

She said: "I made it very clear when I took on this investigation the need for operational and information security. It is hugely disappointing that this may not have been adhered to.

"The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) takes the unauthorised disclosure of information extremely seriously and has acted swiftly in making these arrests."


Monday, 15 August 2011

Police shaken over Jersey stabbing murders

Three of the six people murdered on the Channel Island of Jersey on Sunday were children according to police.
Two women and a man were also discovered dead after police had been called to a disturbance at a flat in the island's capital St Helier at around 3pm.
“When you're dealing with multiple deaths of men and women and in particularly young children, you'd be inhuman not to be shaken yourself. So yeah, it has shaken the force,” said Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull, leading the inquiry for States of Jersey Police.
A 30 year-old man is in police custody at the Jersey Hospital on the island recovering from surgery.


Saturday, 13 August 2011

When rioters went on the rampage over the past week, the chain that suffered some of the worst damage was JD Sports.

Peter Cowgill, chairman of the successful clothing retailer, said as many as 30 of its stores were targeted and the clean-up and replacing lost stock will cost in excess of £10m. He said he was "depressed" by how quickly things had spiralled out of control. "Ultimately you have to have faith in the law and this resolving itself," he told Retail Week.

The riots affected a broad range of businesses, from Debenhams to Boots, Carphone Warehouse and Argos, which said 18 stores had been looted. A report this week said at least 10% of retail and leisure businesses had been either directly or indirectly hit by the riots.

But JD Sports became the enduring image of the devastation. Robin Knight, a retail expert at restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper, said it was targeted because it is seen to "embody youth culture".

He said: "It has clearly positioned itself as a purveyor of very aspirational product amongst the UK's youth. Currys and Comet got raided because they sell high-value products but JD was very clearly in their minds as [the place] where they'd get the stuff they aspired to. JD has almost been a victim of its own success. It has worked hard to appeal to the youth market and when the country tipped into lawlessness, it still appealed to that market."

Branding experts are warning that the riots are a wake-up call for the fashion brands that JD Sports stocks. They have cultivated a "gangster chic" image and found themselves targeted by looters across the country. Mark Borkowski, a PR and branding expert, said that image was now coming back to haunt them.

"The riots are an absolute disaster for a number of brands. From the day the Daily Mail and the Guardian used that picture of the hoodie equipped completely in Adidas it has become a massive crisis.

"It has been a wake-up call for many brands which have spent millions developing 'gangster chic' and 'dangerwear' images." A rioter dressed head-to-toe in Adidas was pictured on the front pages of most of the country's national newspapers on Tuesday. One of the youngest offenders appeared at court this week in a full Adidas tracksuit. The brand, which is one of the major sponsors of the 2012 Olympics, took the step of condemning its customers for taking part in the riots. "Adidas condemns any antisocial or illegal activity," the company said. "Our brand has a proud sporting heritage and such behaviour goes against everything we stand for."

Borkowski said brands have been aligning themselves with gang and criminal culture for decades but ramped up their association with less clean-cut figures in recent years.

Adidas will next week launch an advertising campaign featuring rapper, gang member and convicted criminal Snoop Dogg. The Adidas Originals advert also stars fellow US rapper Big Sean, who was charged with sexual assault last week.

Earlier this week Levi's withdrew an advertising campaign that featured a young man squaring up to a line of riot police after a public outcry that it glorified riots. The 60-second film ended with the words "Go Forth".

Mark Ritson, a columnist for Marketing Week magazine, said brands which have been featured on newspaper front pages and TV news, have gone into "lockdown" to consider how to respond to the crisis. He said Adidas and Nike, which began as sportswear brands but have branched out into so-called streetwear and urbanwear, could lose hundreds of millions of pounds if their middle-class customers turn their backs on the brands.

"Adidas and Nike have got a very, very strong crisis management team and will have called in PR experts and marketeers to advise them on how best to respond," Ritson said.

Smaller brands that have had negative associations in the media include Criminal, Gio Goi, Fred Perry, Dr Martens, Burberry and Ben Sherman.

Borkowski said that while big sporting brands such as Adidas and Nike will be "terrified" about the risk of a public backlash against their association with the riots and looting, other niche brands and advertisers could be "excited" about the possibility of exploiting the riots to promote themselves.

"There will be creative [advertisers] who are showing a flicker of excitement about this," he said. "Yob culture is cool, brands know this and exploit it.

"The riots on the streets have triggered unprecedented middle-class opprobrium, but in a sense this adds to the uncomfortable coolness of the brands."

Ritson agrees that the most-stolen brands will receive "extra street cred" from their association with the riots and looting.

"Some brands may acquire extra street cred because they were part of it [the unrest]," he said. "It's remarkable, but for brands that are targeted at the young, pissing off a lot of older people will actual increase the brands' appeal to the young."

Speculations circle as to why the London riots have become so big, but the answer is quite obvious.

I'm huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight.

This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain's inner cities to go home.

Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?

Obvious denouncement

In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder "mindless, mindless". Nick Clegg denounced it as "needless, opportunistic theft and violence". Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron - who has finally decided to return home to take charge - declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was "utterly unacceptable".

The violence on the streets is being dismissed as "pure criminality", as the work of a "violent minority", as "opportunism". This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart. 

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station.

A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you're no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.


Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don't know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985.

Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of not seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news.

In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?

Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night, a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.

There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they're paying attention now.

Tonight in London, social order and the rule of law have broken down entirely. The city has been brought to a standstill; it is not safe to go out onto the streets, and where I am in Holloway, the violence is coming closer. As I write, the looting and arson attacks have spread to at least fifty different areas across the UK, including dozens in London, and communities are now turning on each other, with the Guardian reporting on rival gangs forming battle lines. It has become clear to the disenfranchised young people of Britain, who feel that they have no stake in society and nothing to lose, that they can do what they like tonight, and the police are utterly unable to stop them. That is what riots are all about.


Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out. Structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables.

People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything - literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.

No one expected this. The so-called leaders who have taken three solid days to return from their foreign holidays to a country in flames did not anticipate this. The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things had become. They thought that after thirty years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, and nothing would happen. They were wrong. And now my city is burning, and it will continue to burn until we stop the blanket condemnations and blind conjecture and try to understand just what has brought viral civil unrest to Britain. Let me give you a hint: it ain't Twitter.

I'm stuck in the house, now, with rioting going on just down the road in Chalk Farm. Ealing and Clapham and Dalston are being trashed. Journalists are being mugged and beaten in the streets, and the riot cops are in retreat where they have appeared at all. Police stations are being set alight all over the country.

This morning, as the smoke begins to clear, those of us who can sleep will wake up to a country in chaos. We will wake up to fear, and to racism, and to condemnation on left and right, none of which will stop this happening again, as the prospect of a second stock market crash teeters terrifyingly at the bottom of the news reports. Now is the time when we make our choices. Now is the time when we decide whether to descend into hate, or to put prejudice aside and work together. Now is the time when we decide what sort of country it is that we want to live in. Follow the #riotcleanup hashtag on Twitter. And take care of one another.


Top cops furious as David Cameron and Theresa May try to claim glory

BRITAIN'S top cops yesterday issued a stinging rebuke to David Cameron for claiming he quelled the riots.
Furious officers - from the head of Scotland Yard to rank and file street cops - lined up to attack the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May for saying they had ordered the crackdown on the rioters.
There was also anger that Cameron used his Commons statement to accuse the police of being too timid to take action against the thugs and looters.
Acting Metropolitan Chief Tim Godwin pointed out that Cameron and May were still on holiday at the start of the riots.
He said: "I think after any event like this, people will always make comments who weren't there."
Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, also rounded on ministers and claimed Cameron and May were trying to take the glory for decisions made by senior officers.
Sir Hugh said the politicians had made no difference to the police operation to end the mayhem on Britain's streets.
He said: "The fact politicians chose to come back is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing."
He added: "The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference - they were a function of the numbers being available to allow chief constables to change their tactics."
Sir Hugh also said May had "no power" to cancel police leave.
The damaging rift comes as officers are still trying to keep a lid on the riots after English cities were rocked by four nights of violence, looting and disorder.
May said on Thursday she had ordered the "robust approach" and cancelled all leave.
But acting commissioner Godwin played down the role the Home Secretary had played.
He said: "What I can say is that with the unprecedented scenes that we found in London, I have got some of the best commanders in the world ... that showed great restraint and great courage.
"As a result of that we were able to nip this in the bud after a few days.
"I think the issue around the numbers, the issue around the tactics - they are police decisions made by my police commanders and myself."
The police have already clashed with the ministers over plans to cut 16,000 frontline officers over the next four years.
Sir Hugh said fewer officers would make it more difficult to maintain public safety.
He added: "We need to have some very honest conversations with Government about what we stop doing if we are to maintain front line service delivery at current levels."
Police Federation vice chairman Simon Reed said the suggestion police changed their approach after ministers stepped in was "a cheap shot".
He said: "I know Sir Hugh and you call tell when he's upset.
"He is upset, and quite rightly so. I think it is a slight on the rank and file because some of the tone of the words used were that they were 'too timid', implicating they weren't brave enough.
"Rank and file officers will be very upset about those comments, because this was unprecedented levels of violence.
"To say it publicly is denigrating not just chief officers, it's denigrating the brave officers who were working those nights.
"Police officers up and down the country will be very slighted by what this Government has now said."
Reed also lashed out at the cuts, saying the police would struggle to contain future riots if their numbers are reduced.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles fuelled the row by insisting Cameron had led the operation to restore order.
Pickles, who sits on the emergency Cobra committee with Sir Hugh and Godwin, said: "I never had any doubt who was in charge of that meeting and that was the Prime Minister."
But London Mayor Boris Johnson sided with the police.
In clear contrast with Cameron, he said the Metropolitan Police had done a "fantastic job" in protecting the capital.
Johnson also defended the way the police had handled the riots.
He said: "Anybody can have 20/20 hindsight about decisions that could have been taken on Saturday night.
"But let's look at what's happening with the huge amount of arrests that have taken place. People who did this stuff are not getting away with it thanks to the efforts of the Met police force."
Nick Clegg also distanced himself from Cameron and May by saying politicians should not be "armchair generals".
Shadow policing minister Labour's Vernon Coaker said: "It is disgraceful of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister to try to take the credit for taking tough action when it was the police that determined the right approach.
"The government should not be playing politics with public safety at any time but it is unbelievable that this is happening now.
"Instead of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary spinning the police they should be supporting them.
"We and the public think it is incredible that this government is hell bent even now in cutting over 16,000 police officers when they are needed more than ever."
Labour leader Ed Milliband yesterday stepped up pressure for a public inquiry into the riots.
Cameron has so far rejected calls for a full investigation saying a probe by MPs would be enough.
But Miliband said if the Government refused to hold a "national conversation" about the cause of the disturbances, Labour would organise one.
He said: "We cannot allow situation to develop whereby there is a focus for a few days on these issues and then we go back to business as usual.
"It is our duty as politicians, my duty as Leader of the Opposition, to make that happen."
The Labour leader blamed the riots on a "me first" culture. But he accepted that New Labour must take some responsibility for what happened.
He said: "I think we did good things for the country.
"But I've also said that I think we did better at rebuilding the fabric of our country than the ethic of our country.
"I think that's true and no Government should escape, no Government should evade its share of that responsibility, but nor can you just blame the current Government."


Friday, 12 August 2011

Wandsworth council moves to evict mother of charged boy

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.

It is the first local authority to issue an eviction notice on a tenant in the wake of the riots although Westminster, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Nottingham and Salford councils have all said they will consider evicting those found to have taken part in the unrest.

The mother and son cannot be named for legal reasons and a judge will take the final decision about their proposed eviction. David Cameron gave his backing to the move. "I think for too long we have taken too soft an attitude to people who loot and pillage their own community. If you do that you should lose your right to housing at a subsidised rate," he said.

He dismissed the idea that the move might be counterproductive and create deeper poverty for those affected. "Obviously that will mean they will have to be housed somewhere else and they will have to find housing in the private sector and that will be tougher for them. But they should have thought about that before they started burgling," he said. "In some cases, it may help break up the criminal networks in some housing estates if some of these people are thrown out of their houses and I think quite right, too."

Wandsworth council's leader, Ravi Govindia, said that, in signing a tenancy agreement, tenants had agreed not to take part in activities that could jeopardise their housing. The council felt it had the power to terminate the agreement against the tenant, despite the fact that she was not involved in the riots and her son has only been charged, not been convicted.

"The mother can challenge the notice-seeking process," he said. "The tenancy agreement does not just apply to the mother but the entire household."

He said she would be deemed to have made herself deliberately homeless. "Then our obligation would be at an end. She signed the contract in which she and her household would agree the terms of the contract."

Govindia said he hoped the move would dissuade others from taking part in civil unrest. "People in society do know what lines they should not cross, and if you ignore the fact they have crossed the line it only encourages people to cross the line regularly," he said.

Stephen Howlett, chief executive of the Peabody Trust, one of London's largest housing associations, which runs the Pembury estate – next to some of the worst violence in Hackney, north London, on Monday – said he thought courts were likely to find eviction of tenants caught up in the riots disproportionate. "We want the strongest action to be taken against those involved, but our preference is for the criminal justice system to be the focus."

He added that the measures risked simply moving the problem to another area, or pushing tenants further into poverty. "These people have to live somewhere, so if they are evicted you risk just exporting the problem."

He had talked to a mother on the Pembury estate who was was "terrified that she and her younger child would be made homeless as a result of her 17-year-old who she could not keep under control". He added: "This is not simple. We have to be very careful."


Mark Duggan, the man whose death sparked the beginning of riots across Britain, was the nephew of a renowned gangland criminal with a history of violence.

Duggan's late uncle has been revealed as Desmond “Dessie” Noonan, whose feared crime family ran Manchester's underworld for 20 years.
The link emerged yesterday as police sources said the officer who opened fire on Duggan had “an honest-held belief that he was in imminent danger of him and his colleagues being shot”.
A gun belonging to Duggan was found at the scene in Tottenham, North London, but is not thought to have been fired during the incident.
Protests over the 29-year-old’s death erupted into the first of the London riots last Saturday, which rapidly spread right across the country.
In 2005, Noonan featured on Donal MacIntyre's TV documentary Gangster and claimed his family were “untouchables”. He boasted “I've got a bigger army than the police. We have more guns than the police.”



Thousands of people around the world viewed YouTube footage of a youth in a hooded top apparently reaching through the window of a looted shop and setting light to a red dress on a mannequin.

It led to flames engulfing Miss Selfridge in Manchester’s city centre.

Yesterday Dane Williamson, 18, appeared in court accused of the arson.

He was arrested soon after Tuesday night’s blaze, which caused £319,000 of damage to stock, but he has claimed he is a victim of mistaken identity.

The teenager is accused of criminal damage and recklessly endangering life, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Manchester magistrates were told. Gareth Brandon, prosecuting, said: ‘This was an opportunistic offence in the context of the widespread disorder at the time.

‘Quite a lot of people have seen the footage on YouTube which has been repeated in national newspapers.

‘An item of clothing on display was set on fire, the windows having already been smashed and the shutters down.’

The estimated costs relate solely to the clothing inside the store, and do not include damage to the building.

When interviewed, Williamson admitted he had been in the vicinity earlier that day, but claimed he had left by the time of the incident and was on a bus to his brother’s house when the fire was started.

His solicitor said it was ‘a case of mistaken identity’.
Williamson, of Salford, was remanded in custody to appear at Manchester Crown Court next week.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Malaysian student mugged during riots was 'attacked at knifepoint

The Malaysian student who was mugged in Barking, east London, by young men who appeared to be going to his aid said on Wednesday that he had been attacked at knifepoint and left with a broken jaw.

Ashraf Haziq, 20, told one of his friends who visited him in the Royal London hospital in east London: "They threatened to stab me."

His friend recorded their conversation in hospital and posted it on YouTube. Channel 4 News has translated the footage. Haziq said: "Some of them were quite young, maybe still in primary school. They had their hoods on and demanded my bicycle."

Haziq, from Kuala Lumpur, was filmed crouching on the floor after being punched in the face, with the footage broadcast on YouTube and used widely in news bulletins and online.

Several people were seen helping him to his feet and looked like they were comforting him before going through the contents of his backpack and stealing some items.

Haziq, who arrived in Britain a month ago, had been fasting for Ramadan, and was on his way to visit a friend and break his fast, when he was set upon by a gang.

He was due to undergo surgery for a broken jaw on Wednesday.

David Cameron said the attack had left him "disgusted".


UK rhino horn heist highlights EU-wide crime trend

Wedged between a woolly mammoth and a giraffe, Rosie the stuffed rhino may seem an unlikely target for crime.

But, like the fate that threatens many of her living relatives, the 100-year-old creature has had her horn stolen in a wave of rhino horn heists that is spreading across Europe.

Thieves broke into the Ipswich Museum in Essex, a southern English county, just after midnight and took off with Rosie's horn and a black rhino skull displayed nearby.

"They wrenched the horn off Rosie - it probably only took them five minutes to take it and leave. They knew exactly what they wanted, and nothing was else was taken," Max Stocker at Ipswich Council told Reuters.

Thefts of rhino horns, highly prized in the Far East for their decorative and purported medicinal purposes, have been reported by museums across Britain and Europe.

Many of the thefts are the work of an organised crime group who are diversifying their activities away from drug trafficking and money laundering to cash in on the high prices the rare commodity can fetch, according to European law enforcement organization, Europol.

"Significant players within this area of crime have been identified as an Irish and ethnically-Irish organised criminal group, who are known to use intimidation and violence to achieve their ends," Europol said in a statement.

Antique dealers, auction houses, art galleries, museums, private collections and zoos, are among the institutions targeted by the group, who have exploited international auction houses in Britain, France, USA and China to sell the specimens, Europol said.

Depending on the size and quality of the horn, specimens can be worth between 25,000 and 200,000 euros ($284,418), according to Europol.

But for Ipswich Museum, the theft has destroyed a 'much-loved exhibit' which has been on display since 1907, after curators swapped a wild boar for Rosie in an exchange with the London's Natural History Museum.

"It's not about a financial loss for us. We've lost the figurehead of the museum. Our visitors can't believe that the horn has just vanished. It's a topic of conversation for just about every visitor - -everyone asks where us the horn is," said Stocker.

Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of wide range of maladies, despite the fact that the use of the substance in medicine has been proven ineffective.

However, Rosie's horn could contain a nasty surprise for anyone wanting to use it for medicinal purposes, due to the early preserving methods of the Victorians.

"The horn may well be worthless because of the possible presence of arsenic in the horn. Preservers used a whole cocktail of chemicals to preserve the animals - arsenic may well have been absorbed into the horn during this process," said Stocker. ($1 = 0.703 Euros)


Boris Johnson today called on the Government to reconsider its plans to reduce police numbers following widespread rioting across the country.

The London Mayor claimed ministers should take “another look” at proposals to cut force budgets, and said officers needed to “get on and do what they signed up to do”.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, he described the case for cuts as frail while also condemning the violence seen in London as “a massive own goal”.
He also argued that those in authority needed to have their ability to instill discipline in youngsters restored.
“If you ask me whether I think there is a case for cutting police budgets in the light of these events then my answer would be no,” he said. “I think that case was always been pretty frail and its been substantially weakened.
“If you look at the position in London, obviously we’ve been able to make significant savings, we’ve been able to move money around and expand numbers.

“But if you look at what’s happening in Birmingham and Manchester and elsewhere; very troubling scenes.
“This is not a time to think about making substantial cuts in police numbers.”
Police forces in Britain face an array of reforms including reviews into pay and conditions, the creation of a new National Crime Agency and the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners - all set against the backdrop of dwindling budgets and job cuts.
The plan for the National Crime Agency, which is expected to be operational by December 2013, has been criticised for its lack of detail, particularly around cost.
But despite the criticism, the Government has shown no sign of altering its plans on police reform.
Police sources say they fear the desire to push ahead with proposals are based on the length the Coalition Government’s parliamentary term rather than what is best for the service
Mr Johnson went on to describe the police as having very “heavy restrictions that surround their conduct”.
He argued that it was perhaps not surprising that “they found the initial outbreak so difficult to deal with” given those restrictions.
The mayor also claimed that those in positions of authority had somehow lost their right to impose discipline.
“Let’s face it, what’s happened in our city and in our country in the last three or four days has been a massive own goal.
“Here in London you had people behaving with a complete lack of restraint and a complete lack of respect for the police. It was chilling.
“The lesson is that over 20, 30 years we’ve got into a situation where we have allowed people an endless sense of entitlement. Give adults and give teachers back the right to impose authority.
“I would like the benefit of the doubt to be in favour of adults and those who are in positions of authority.
“We need to give the police the courage of their convictions and get on and do what they signed up to do.”


KITCHEN staff brandishing rolling pins drove out robbers terrorising customers at a high-end London restaurant owned by Aussie Chef Brett Graham.

Terrified diners in London told how rioters brandishing baseball bats smashed their way into a top restaurant and forced them to hand over wedding rings, cell phones and wallets.

Staff at two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury, in the affluent west London suburb of Notting Hill, were forced to confront the gang of intruders with rolling pins and kitchen utensils Monday evening in a desperate bid to protect customers.

The looters, wearing masks and hoodies, stormed the well known restaurant late in the evening and immediately began threatening those inside with machetes, knives and bats.

Graham, who has appeared on MasterChef, said he was proud of the staff at The Ledbury, in Notting Hill, who stormed the mob with rolling pins, knives and other kitchen implements.

Related Coverage
London : Shots fired as violence continues

“Probably a mob of 50/60 young kids and a few more slightly older smashed down the front door. The door was locked. The staff realised there was going to be trouble, locked all the doors, got all the customers against the opposite wall and basically these guys come in and smash the door,” the chef, originally from Newcastle in NSW, told ABC Radio.

“The kitchen staff realised what was happening, they grabbed loads of stuff and all just ran outside shouting and screaming and, f---ing, get out. So, you know, shouting at the guys and they cleared out pretty quickly,” he said.

Mr Graham said he’d never seen anything like it as youngsters demanded valuables from the customers.

“It's just ridiculous. It's little kids who don't know what they're doing,” he said.

One customer posted on her blog NakedSushi that one looter tried to pull the rings from her fingers.

"The restaurant staff was yelling at us to get away from the windows. Before I knew it, the front door, a solid piece of glass shattered and people came crashing in with hoodies, masks, and random weapons," she wrote.

"The looters were yelling at us to get down and throwing stuff all over the place. I got down and started taking off my wedding and engagement ring to hide somewhere, but unfortunately wasn't fast enough. One looter came up and demanded my phone. I didn't have it with me since it was in my purse and it was out of arm's reach. I also didn't want to lead him to my passport, so I said I didn't have one.

“He told me to take off my rings and grabbed my hand, trying to yank them off. His friend tried to help too, but the rings wouldn’t come off and I just yelled at him that I’d take them off myself,” Louise Yang said.

"In hindsight, now that I know that gun control is so fierce in England and he only had bat, I should have held on to my rings better and maybe slugged him in the face."

“The kitchen staff at the Ledbury went beyond their call of duty by rushing up from the kitchen with rolling pins, fry baskets, and other dangerous kitchen tools and scared off the looters.

“Then they provided well-needed glasses of alcohol including champagne and whisky. 

“When word came that the looters were coming back a second time, they ushered us into the bathrooms and told us to lock the doors. A few minutes later, they led us into the wine cellar and told us to lock ourselves in there,” she said.

Maggie and Clive Wilkinson, in their 50s, were celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary when they heard an enormous crash as the youths broke through the windows.

"Thirty people burst in, it was like something out of a movie," Maggie Wilkinson told The (London) Times. "They had baseball bats, things like that. They were shouting at people, 'We want your money, your wallets, your watches, your phones.' Everyone was screaming."

She hid under the table, concealing her watch in her bra.

"Everything in the restaurant was being smashed. They turned tables over, it was mayhem," said Clive Wilkinson, who defied the attackers, saying he did not have a watch and they would not take his wallet.

The Wilkinsons returned to pay for their meal, but the management would not accept any money. The owner Brett Graham, the celebrated Australian chef, vowed it would be "business as usual" at The Ledbury.

The treatment of inmates at Wandsworth Prison in London was "demeaning, unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent

The treatment of inmates at Wandsworth Prison in London was "demeaning, unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent", a report says.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said he "did not detect sufficient willingness" in the prison to acknowledge and address concerns.

The report says conditions were significantly worse than in June 2009.

The National Offender Management Service said a "robust action plan" was in place.

Mr Hardwick's report followed an unannounced inspection of the prison between 28 February and 4 March which was undertaken because a previous inspection - in June 2009 - had been marred by an attempt to subvert the process by moving "difficult" prisoners between Wandsworth and Pentonville so that they were not present in either prison during the inspection.

Written on behalf of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales, the report says prisoner safety was now a "matter of serious concern".

The report's key findings include:

The level of self-harm and self-inflicted deaths was high. Typically there were about 32 incidents of self-harm each month, and between January 2010 and the inspection in February 2011 there had been 11 deaths in custody, of which four were apparently self-inflicted
At best prisoners were locked in their cells for 16.5 hours a day; at worst they were locked up for 22 hours a day
Poor staff/prisoner relationships; a lack of a predictable regime and insufficient activity all contributed to feelings of isolation and alienation that might have led to self-harming behaviour
Prisoners with specific individual needs were particularly disadvantaged. One prisoner with a disability who had been remanded for three months told inspectors he hadn't had a shower in that time
Provision for foreign national prisoners was poor, some being held beyond their sentence - one for three years
Black and minority ethnic prisoners were disadvantaged in significant areas of the prison
However, the report did acknowledge that the prison had good training opportunities and some good resettlement services.

General and mental health services fared well, and there were few complaints about the food.

Reduce re-offending
The report has been greeted with dismay by prison campaigners.

Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Frances Crook said: "Such abuse hampers safe return to the community and puts victims at risk.

"If Wandsworth Prison is unable to offer basic facilities such as a shower each day, how much rehabilitation and work to reduce re-offending do we think is going on?"

National Offender Management Service chief executive Michael Spurr acknowledged the poor report, but said a "robust action plan is in place to address the recommendations in the report and managers and staff at the prison are in no doubt that they must improve performance."

David Cameron valued his summer holiday over welfare of the nation

THE criminal complacency of Dave “Crisis? What Crisis” Cameron can be measured in lost homes and looted livelihoods.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned and this smug, part-time Premier opted to sip cappuccino in Tuscany while London went up in flames.

The storm engulfing a Dithering Dave – who flirted with a waitress instead of fulfilling a constitutional duty to lead Britain – is the Prime Minister’s very own personal ­Hurricane Katrina.

American cowboy George Bush never recovered from ignoring the plight of devastated New Orleans.

Cameron will never erase the stain of valuing his summer holiday over the welfare and safety of the nation.

That he was forced to scuttle back under cover of darkness, tail between his legs, three days too late, emphasised the gravity of his error.Because the political class failed Britain catastrophically, ­surrendering the streets to thousands of rioters without a cause – except the theft of a flatscreen telly.

It remains inexplicable that the PM and his Deputy Nick Clegg, the ­Chancellor George Osborne and his Deputy Danny Alexander, Home Secretary Theresa May and London Mayor Boris Johnson all abandoned these shores at the same time.

And unforgivable that they dilly-dallied for so long over whether to come back.

Whitehall and Westminster were rudderless, the Tory mantra “we’re all in this together” was just a label on the suitcases of holidaying Cabinet Ministers. No greater sacrifice could a Home Secretary make than to lay down her holiday for the sake of the PM.

Yet it was self-evident to everyone except the man himself and No 10 cronies that he’d be forced to put down the waitress and return.


The PM’s failure to grasp the obvious is the most damning of a list of errors as long as the arm of a serial looter.

Mishandling the economy, botching health reforms, missing the wood for the trees in forests, ­surrendering a once proud military to Treasury bean-counters and, now, abrogation of leadership reveal the real David Cameron.

The Buller Boy born to rule is a bad ruler. Cameron’s proving a second-rate Premier – a politician once hailed as a thoroughbred exposed as a hobbling show pony.

I readily concede I thought Cameron got his initial response and tone spot on when he finally remembered where Downing Street is, ignoring ill-­considered shouts for curfews and ­squaddies. The performance, however, emphasised his ­tawdriness in favouring an extended summer coffee over doing his job.

Not that Labour’s leadership covered itself in glory.

On the front line in London the likes of David Lammy, Diane Abbott and Ken Livingstone responded admirably. The same cannot be said of Labour leader Ed Miliband and his deputy Harriet Harman – who both went Awol.

Recalling Parliament tomorrow’s a real opportunity to ­reassure ­frightened people and isolate mindless rioters by MPs uniting to condemn.

But the searching inquest in the weeks and months ahead must explore why a Resident Evil-style riot virus spread so rapidly among the young.

Denouncing the ­indefensible is the easy bit. ­Understanding why it happened, and how to avoid a second round, is the harder.

Widespread disaffection and a lack of respect for others is obvious. The shocking events since ­Saturday’s Tottenham flashpoint are the ­bankruptcy of Cameronism. To pursue plans to sack police officers would be monumental stupidity.

To shut clubs and axe youth ­services would be a false economy.


And high unemployment among the under-24s is a breeding ground for anarchy.

History teaches us the devil makes work for idle hands.

Nothing justifies the orgy of violence – though background issues demand redress.

Cameron’s a tainted Premier, scarred by lawlessness and disorder. Boos and heckles dogging Ministers visiting wrecked shopping streets are the sound of lost confidence.

Cameron’s extra cup of coffee leaves a bitter taste.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The weather is unlikely to do law-abiding citizens any favours tonight with little or no rain forecast to help keep troublemakers off the nation's streets.

There will be 16,000 police officers patrolling London's streets tonight and forces across the country are steeling themselves for a possible fourth night of riots and looting.
Normally, offending levels are lower in poor night time weather and it was hoped the authorities' bid for peace would be bolstered by rain - which has lashed parts of the United Kingdom in recent days.
But forecasters said the chances were slim.
Across the capital there will be no rain, said a forecaster from MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather centre.
It will also remain dry further north into Birmingham, which also saw trouble yesterday, as well as Bristol where a Tesco store was torched.


Kaiser Chiefs grab brooms and join riot clean up campaign

Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson and fellow band member Simon Rix put on their community caps and joined the growing group of ‘handy mobs’ with their brooms to help with the London clean up campaign following three days of riots.

Tweeting their step-by-step journey, Ricky encouraged his 23, 698 followers to borrow a broom and help repair the devastation caused throughout the city following the riots.

He said: “Camden Chalk Farm. Me and @curlywand will there in a bit with our brooms. Get to one near you today if you're about.

The details of their journey contined: “In a 'Handy Mob' on the train. We're all armed with brooms. Least threatening mob ever. One girl has a jay cloth.”

It soon became apparent that The Angry Mob singers were unable to help as much as they had anticipated…although they did spot another friendly famous face in the crowds.

“Can't really do that much. It's all still crime scene at the moment. Seen Matt Baker from Blue Peter though. Result.”

Band member Simon Rix also kept in touch through the social networking site, saying: “Atmosphere in Clapham was brooming marvellous this afternoon. Well done London. Hopefully we won't be doing it again tomorrow.”



450 detectives have been assigned to hunt for rioters and looters in the biggest criminal investigation ever mounted by the Metropolitan police.

Commander Simon Foy, head of the homicide and serious crime command, who is leading the investigation, said he was considering asking other forces to provide detectives to help as the number of arrests continues to rise.

Foy has taken detectives off all other inquiries to concentrate on finding those who have been rioting. His team is trawling through CCTV images and a most wanted page shows images of scores of young men and women, some with their faces clearly visible, in an attempt to get the public to help identify looters.

In the last three days 525 people have been arrested across the capital. The youngest rioter, police said, was 11 and many of those arrested and charged are under 18.

Detectives from Trident are also investigating the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old man in a car in Croydon on Monday night in what officers believe was a fight between looters.

Sources said the man was in a group of people who travelled to Croydon as the rioting began. The group had an altercation with a separate gang of nine looters, according to a police source. The gangs jumped into three vehicles and there was a high-speed chase along Scarbrook Road over a flyover into Duppas Hill Road where the cars came to a halt and the victim was shot in the head.

Police found him still sitting in the car. He was taken to hospital and died on Tuesday. Two men were arrested at the scene on suspicion of handling stolen goods, and were released on police bail.

Foy's team was due to make its first arrests over the riots using leads provided by the CCTV pictures on Tuesday. "We promise a vigorous and rigorous pursuit," Foy said. "To those individuals who think that they have got away with it, my message is we will come and find you."

Some of the CCTV pictures are being circulated on Flickr. So far 99 individuals have been charged with offences including 63 counts of burglary, two assaults on police officers, three robberies, four counts of possession of offensive weapons and eight public order offences. The accused began appearing at Highbury Corner and Camberwell Green magistrates court on Tuesday afternoon.

The workload is mounting quickly. Detectives have been taken from antiterrorist inquiries and some from Operation Weeting, the phone-hacking inquiry, because of the scale of evidence that needs to be investigated.

The pressure is on the Yard to move people quickly through the system, such is the number of those arrested. The cells were to be cleared by Tuesday night to make room for an anticipated further round of arrests.

London Mayor Boris Johnson carries riot clean-up brush

London Mayor Boris Johnson faced a barrage of questions from residents as he toured the devastation in riot-hit Clapham Junction.

He was handed a brush amid shouts of ''where's your broom?'' and added that he was ''very sorry'' for the damage done to local property by rioters.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to restore order, recalling Parliament on Thursday.


To find the centre of the disturbances in Hackney, all I had to do was head towards the police helicopters hovering overhead.

A line of buses had been parked, to all intents and purposes abandoned, at the top of Mare Street, the main road through the area.

Under the railway bridge, riot police formed a line, the lights on their vans flashing behind them. I could see the shopping precinct beyond, where the trouble had begun, but could not get through.

On Mare St, clumps of rioters surged forward and then retreated as police ran towards them.

A group of young men began trying to tear the metal shutter off a jewellery shop. All the shops in the area were closed.

Concerned residents tried to escape
One woman walking her dog argued with police; all she wanted was to get home, but her home lay on the other side of the riot and the police would not let her through.

Most of those directly confronting the police were young; many had masked their faces with balaclavas or bandannas.

Some began rocking a bin from side to side, pulling it loose from the pavement.

They broke into a branch of JD Sports.

One looter walked right in front of me, his arms full of grey and red sweatpants still on their hangers.

'Olympic borough'
The police began to push the rioters back, down Mare St to the south.

I took cover in a side street, but I was not the only one: some of the rioters, and a fair few onlookers, had the same idea.

Riot police followed us, blocking off the way back to the main road: some had dogs which lunged forward on their leashes, snarling.

At one point, the police charged up the lane. I took cover in a doorway as dozens of people ran past. After a lot of anger and shouting, it was safe to come out again and keep moving.

Several shops were looted
By this time, most of the crowd were around Hackney Town Hall and the Hackney Empire theatre. One of the great 19th Century music halls, it was recently refurbished - a much-needed investment in a borough where poverty and unemployment are widespread.

But for many people living around here, it is not enough to make a difference.

This is the Olympic borough, one man told me, but the money and the opportunities are not getting through.

He and a friend condemned the looting and the rioting: they said it was local residents and businesses that would pay the price for the unrest.

Social problems
By no means had everyone who was there taken part in the violence.

I spoke to one woman who was desperately worried for her 17-year-old son, afraid he would go along with his friends and end up in trouble.

We knew this was going to happen. We told them”

Hackney resident
Afro-Caribbean youths like him were being stopped and searched by the police twice or three times a day, she said.

A youth worker herself in south London, where there has also been unrest, she said despairingly: "We knew this was going to happen. We told them."

She said funding for services had been cut, leaving young people with nowhere to go but the street.

By this time, an acrid pall of grey smoke from a burning car hung over Mare St.

A bottle bank had been tipped over, spilling hundreds of bottles on to the street, some of them used as makeshift missiles by the rioters, who also shot firecrackers directly at the police.

Rioters were said to be coordinating by BlackBerry
A burglar alarm shrilled from a jeweller's shop which had been attacked. A pair of silver cufflinks, still in their plastic box, lay in the gutter.

By this point, the rioters were beginning to disperse. The police, too, began to move off, their vans making a crunching sound from all the broken glass beneath their wheels.

In a side street, another car was ablaze, guarded by half a dozen riot officers. I spoke to two youths who were watching it burn.

One had received an update on his BlackBerry Messenger - the social network used by many of the rioters to co-ordinate their movements - which, he said, gave a list of areas where further disturbances were being planned.

Back at the top of Mare St, the glaziers were already at work, boarding up shattered windows. Police were guarding the businesses that had been looted.

There was more smoke from behind the shopping precinct where the trouble originated. A police officer told me more vehicles were on fire.

As I turned to leave, I was passed by a group of youths on bicycles, all of them masked, laughing and pedalling furiously westward.

The disturbances in Hackney might have subsided, but across London, there was clearly more trouble in store.

BRC tells Home Secretary to deal with "escalating lawlessness" after rioting

Industry body the BRC is to seek “urgent reassurances” from Home Secretary Theresa May that everything possible is being done to address “escalating lawlessness” on the streets of London and other cities after three nights of rioting resulting in the destruction and looting of stores.

The BRC has demanded “intelligence-led information” to help retailers protect their properties and reassurances that those responsible for vandalism and theft will be punished.

British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said:“The shocking levels of lawlessness breaking out across the UK are hitting the heart of our communities.

“The police have shown great courage in facing the vandals but it is imperative retailers know that resources and plans are in place to prevent any repeat of this trouble.

“Targeting local shops as an expression of anger and frustration is mindless. These criminal acts destroy community resources, hurting local businesses and threatening people’s jobs. Staff are being intimidated and traumatised. Those responsible must be prosecuted and punished. Retailers and their staff are particularly vulnerable and need protecting.

“As well as the immediate bills caused by damage and theft, there will be longer-term costs. Inevitably some businesses which have been attacked will never open their doors again. Banks need to offer good credit arrangements to those targeted so as many as possible have a chance to refit and reopen.

The organisation set out a series of points that it wants to Government to address including: -

assurances the police and fire services are adequately resourced and equipped, and are authorised to use robust operational tactics to close down situations quickly;

assurances there will be resolute pursuit of offenders with effective prosecutions, in contrast to the West End protests earlier this year;

immediate support to help shopkeepers protect their properties, including timely intelligence and practical assistance in securing and clearing up after attacks;

early discussions on how affected communities can be helped to recover, given the likelihood that a significant number of small shops will fail following the attacks;

joint discussions with the insurance industry to ensure affordable insurance remains available in the affected areas and more widely to the sector;

joint discussions with banks to ensure short to medium-term credit arrangements enable retailers to refit and re-open.


Sunday, 7 August 2011

police who took tip-off fees to be investigated by taxman

Police officers who allegedly took payments from newspapers and private investigators could face hefty fines and criminal prosecution after it emerged HM Revenue & Customs is reopening personal tax records to check if payments were fully disclosed.

It is understood HMRC has already begun probing self-assessment forms from previous years in the wake of new information obtained amid the phone-hacking revelations.

Last month Sir Paul Stephenson, the outgoing Metropolitan police commissioner, said documents provided by News International appear to include information on "inappropriate payments" to police officers. It was reported that the company provided the Met with details of payments made by the News of the World to senior officers between 2003 and 2007.

Under HMRC rules any payments earned in connection with an individual's employment are required to be disclosed for tax purposes, even if the payment is deemed illegal.

An HMRC spokesperson said he could not confirm the nature or extent of any investigation into a private individual's tax affairs. But he confirmed that HMRC will act on any new information and that illegal earnings can still be liable for tax.

Action to recover tax from police officers paid illegal tip-off fees relies on the precedent set by the "Miss Whiplash" prostitution case of the early 1990s, which has since entered the HMRC rule book. Miss Whiplash, who also went by the name of Lindi St Clair, was pursued for £112,000 in unpaid income tax in the late 1980s. It culminated in a court case in 1990 where she argued that since it was illegal to live on immoral earnings, taxing her would be committing an offence. But she lost the case and was subsequently made bankrupt.

An HMRC spokesman said: "If you receive money in connection with your employment then it is liable for income tax. Illegality is irrelevant."

Over the past year HMRC has intensified investigations into alleged tax cheats and promised to increase the number of prosecutions. Since April HMRC has had powers to name and shame anyone found to have deliberately evaded £25,000 or more in tax. The scheme will see names, addresses and details of the evasion made public. But those who come clean can avoid having their details published.

Earlier this year the government gave HMRC with an additional £900m to fund more investigations into tax evasion. The aim is to raise an additional £7bn in tax each year by 2014/15. HMRC has also gained new powers to inspect taxpayers' records and documents. In a typical investigation it will examine income and earnings dating back six years. If it discovers an individual has knowingly submitted an inaccurate return or document, or taken active steps to conceal earnings, it can demand repayment of the tax, plus interest and a penalty of up to 100% of the unpaid tax.

The department recently announced the targeting of the restaurant industry with a new task force dedicated to detecting tax and national insurance evasion. But it added that criminal prosecutions were reserved only for the most serious cases of high level fraud.



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