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British PM vows crackdown as riot suspects face court

By Robin Millard | China Daily | Updated: 2011-08-15 08:07

 British PM vows crackdown as riot suspects face court

Press photographers take pictures of a prison van leaving City of Westminster Magistrates court in London on Saturday. The courts are continuing to process the hundreds of looters and rioters who have been arrested since the beginning of the distubances. Facundo Arrizabalaga / Agence France-Presse

LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a "zero tolerance" crackdown on reckless thugs as two suspects were scheduled to appear in court on Sunday over the deaths of three men in the riots.

Cameron called the riots a turning point in British history as police, politicians and the public thrashed out what to do with the criminals behind an unprecedented wave of violence that rocked England last week.

The frenzy of looting, rioting and arson is "going to change things, definitely", Cameron said, describing it as "a huge event in the life of the nation".

Cameron has hired former New York police chief Bill Bratton to give advice on tackling gang culture as Britain searches for the best way to deal with its adrift underclass.

Bratton was a key figure in imposing "zero tolerance" policing in New York and cutting crime after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

"We haven't talked the language of zero tolerance enough, but the message is getting through," Cameron told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"If you leave the broken window, the shop gets looted again."

Cameron said some people were giving overly complicated explanations for the rioting.

"They were nicking televisions because they wanted a television and they weren't prepared to save up and get it like normal people," he said.

"The complicated bit is why are there so many, why is there this sizeable minority of people who are prepared to do this?

"It might be 100,000 deeply broken and troubled families ... costing hundreds of millions of pounds for the country. They are completely dysfunctional, they need help and we are going to get in there and actually try and turn this around."

However, senior British police figures are in no mood for lectures from politicians.

Scotland Yard Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin said there had been "inconsistency" from ministers over how tough the police were expected to be, following allegations of heavy-handedness in the G20 protests in 2009.

"The views we are hearing now are slightly different to those," he said.

More than 2,140 people have now been arrested, of whom around 1,000 have been charged.

Britain's top officer said he expected around 3,000 people to face the courts over the riots.

"We found that the scale and spread of the violence ... and criminal behavior was far greater than anyone could have imagined," Godwin said.

He said commanders would decide on Monday whether to scale down the surge of officers on London's streets, currently at 16,000.

And Hugh Orde, the head of the police chiefs body, said a home-grown policing model would be best for Britain, in an apparent swipe at the hiring of Bratton.

"I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them," he told The Independent on Sunday newspaper.

"It seems to me, if you've got 400 gangs, then you're not being very effective. If you look at the style of policing in the States, and their levels of violence, they are fundamentally different from here."

England has had four quieter days following the wave of violence which struck London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and several other cities.

So-called "shop a looter" campaigns, featuring websites and video screens showing people's faces, have proved successful in snaring suspects, as public revulsion to the riots continues.

Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 08/15/2011 page12)

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