England riots: more than 1,560 suspects brought to court


More than 1,560 suspects have been brought before the courts for riot-related offences, according to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Justice.

Of those appearing at magistrates courts since disturbances erupted in early August, 66% have been remanded in custody – a far higher rate than normal and a reflection of continuing police and judicial concern about the seriousness of offences. Only 10% of those attending magistrates courts last year were remanded in custody.

Sentencing in magistrates courts reveals a similar disparity: 45% of those convicted following the riots have been jailed against 12% for comparable offences such as affray, assault, burglary and violent disorder last year.

The latest figures show that nearly 100 people have been brought before the courts in the past week as more suspects are identified and tracked down. Of the 1,566 total so far, more than 1,000 were in London, nearly 200 in Manchester, and about 130 in the West Midlands.

One in five (22%) were youths, aged 10 to 17, and nine out of 10 (91%) were male.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, accused the government of depriving the police of sufficient resources to tackle the consequences of the violence and looting.

Talking to local residents in Clapham, south London, Cooper said ministers were backing away from their pledge to meet extra policing costs.

"It is shocking that at a time like this the prime minister and the home secretary are leaving police forces across the country in limbo, seriously concerned that the cuts they are already struggling with have been made even worse.

"Now when the Metropolitan police has a minimum £34m bill in extra policing costs, at a time when they are already set to lose nearly 2,000 officers, the government has abandoned them.

"We contacted the home secretary two weeks ago to ask if the prime minister's pledge to stand behind the extra costs for police forces was going to be met, but the only response has been stony silence.

"David Cameron must urgently clarify where forces stand, and reopen the police spending review which is resulting in the loss of over 16,000 officers nationwide."

Earlier this week, the Magistrates' Association chairman John Thornhill rejected claims that there had been a "feeding frenzy" in sentencing after the recent riots.

Eoin McLennan-Murray, president of the Prison Governors Association (PGA), had claimed that magistrates had lost all sense of proportion "This kind of speedy across-the-board justice probably means a number of people are dealt with unfairly," he said.

Thornhill said: "The sentencing guidelines are very clear. Let's remember that these are serious offences. In most cases people are charged with burglary and in some cases aggravated burglary".

Most of the sentences had been imposed by full-time district judges rather than the lay magistracy, he added. Criticism of magistrates was "unreasonable and unfounded".