Posts Tagged 'riot'

I’ve changed my plea to guilty because freedom is wasted on me…

A custody van delivers yet more rioters to court (Image from BBC)

Another day and another quick blog post to keep you updated about the steps we’re taking to keep safe the communities of the West Midlands and help with the process of putting the pieces back together again in the wake of the recent disorders.

Assuming you’re hooked up to my Twitter feed (or indeed any of the other WMP social media outlets), you’ll know that our shifts have been subject to a little ‘rejiggling’ to ensure that there are many, many officers on duty at peak times.

We are all working a little longer than we would do usually but at the same time the general feeling is that we’re all pulling together to help each other out and serve you in the process.

Last night’s shift, between 7PM and 7AM, saw officers on duty across the West Midlands either out in patrol cars, sitting in police vans or out on their feet in the town centres. I spent the shift with a partner driving around in one of the ‘response’ cars attending the call outs and jobs that we continue to receive irregardless of the riots.

Saying that I spent the night going to jobs though, I should probably clarify by saying that after midnight or so the calls had dropped off and reassuringly there was very little to do other than go on the prowl for burglars and spot foxes. I spoke to officers who were finishing having been out in the ‘public order’ vans and they reported a similar shift – lots of patrol and chatting to people but no issues at all.

I’ve been regularly checking the prisoners we have held in the cells at Walsall and Bloxwich Police Stations and have been inspired when I load up the ‘white board’ to see we’ve been filling our blocks with people arrested for burglary, theft, criminal damage, public order offences and all sorts else in connection with the disorders.

As you may have read, the courts are opening throughout the night in order to process the huge numbers of prisoners that we have – and are continuing to – arrest having been identified as responsible for looting, some being arrested, charged and jailed inside twenty four hours.

To this end the CID department have been working especially hard in collecting evidence, interviewing and securing charges for these prisoners and so I think deserve a great deal of recognition for the results they’re achieving.

Meanwhile we continue to be bolstered by the huge amount of positive feedback that we’re receiving through the social networks and as I’ve said before, will say now and will say again in the future, it really does mean a lot to us.

My ‘Dedication’ photo continues to act as an apparent conduit for public goodwill towards us emergency services having quite expectantly found its way into many of the national papers and even onto the TV.

The amount of people who have shared it with others as a mark of their support for our work has been outstanding and whilst it does indeed reflect the resident fatigue of our longer hours, it at the same time reinforces our resolve to work the shifts, your support demonstrating that at times like these, the police really are the public and the public the police.

Watching the people get lairy, it’s not very pretty I tell thee…

Riot police move in to tackle protesters (Image from BBC/PA)

Back in March I’d written a blog post all about the intricacies of what constitutes a ‘public order’ offence. This was published against the background of the March for the Alternative demonstrations during which several protesters were arrested under various sections the Public Order Act.

The point of the post was to explain a little what these offences were as whilst the media were happy to report people having been locked up for public order offences, there didn’t seem to be much clarification for non-legal bods about what the term might mean.

If you read the post at the time or have just pulled it up to have a scan now, you may have noticed that I covered Sections 5, 4A, 4, 3 and 2.

Where, you might ask, was Section 1? And what is Section 1?

Section 1 refers to a highly topical offence taking into account the recent disturbances in London. Section 1 of the Public Order Act is riot.

How does the law define a riot though?

According to the Act, riot is very close to violent disorder (Section 2 of the Act) in terms of how it is described. To quickly recap ‘violent disorder’, it is where three or more people act in a way that causes another person to fear for their own personal safety. Their actions have to be more than words and can be directed against another person or against property.

Very simply put, riot is the same as violent disorder but rather than involving a minimum of three people, involves a minimum of twelve.

These twelve people have to be using or threatening violence for a ‘common purpose’ and do not have to all be doing so simultaneously so if eleven people are smashing up a bus stop and the twelfth is with them but taking a break to drink a nice cup of tea, there is still a riot.

Today’s offence of rioting replaces the older offence given in the Riot Act 1741 under which miscreants could be prosecuted if twelve of them had gathered and not dispersed within an hour of the Riot Act itself having been read out to them. This is where the term ‘reading the Riot Act’ comes from.

Whilst The Riot Act itself has since been replaced, another similarly elderly law relating to today’s offence of ‘rioting’ still sits on the statute books and is applicable today. This is known as the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.

The implication of this Act is that should a riot occur, the police may be required to pay compensation for the damage.

This has happened recently to Bedfordshire Police Authority after an immigration detention centre was destroyed by a fire started by ‘persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together’ and its owners sued accordingly.

The £42 million cost for repairs to the centre is one of the reasons that in legal terms, ‘riots’ are very, very rare. A large scale disorder will be classified as many separate incidents of criminal damage, violent disorder, affray or assaults rather than as a riot with the argument sensibly being made that there is no ‘common purpose’ amongst those gathered.

Call them as you will, however, the ‘Tottenham riots’ and ongoing issues in London are still totally unacceptable and I think it’s fair to say there’s a great deal of sympathy up here in the West Midlands for those countless Met officers who will have been working long, stressful shifts restoring the peace and reassuring the local communities in the areas affected.

The BBC are continuing their coverage as events unfold and the Met too are providing regular updates through their News & Appeals page. Finally, for an insider’s view of the riots and what it’s been like to police them, I’d recommend you take a look at Inspector Winter’s excellent blog on the events which is available here.

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