August 2011 uprising: state revenge continues as police tool up for next time

On 23 February the Ministry of Justice published its second Statistical bulletin on the public disorder of 6th to 9th August 2011. This revealed that by 1 February 2,710 people had appeared in court in relation to the August uprisings: 1,896 in London, 301 in the West Midlands, 64 in Nottingham, 240 in Greater Manchester, 92 in Merseyside and 117 in other areas.

The majority of those appearing in court (59%) described themselves as black or minority ethnic. Most of the defendants are male (89%) and young (53% were aged 20 or under and only 6% were over 40). Since the bulletin was issued, court cases have continued, including that on 22 March against a boy who was 11 years old in August 2011, and who was sentenced to six months’ youth custody for violent disorder and criminal damage.

As of 1 February, 1,483 people had been found guilty and sentenced, with 945 given immediate terms of imprisonment, the average sentence length being 14.2 months. Illustrating once again the particularly punitive nature of the courts’ attitude to ‘riot-related offences’, this compares to an average sentence length of 3.7 months for those convicted by magistrates of similar offences in 2010.

On 14 March, the Metropolitan Police Force issued 4 Days in August, the final report of its ‘Strategic Review into the Disorder of August 2011’. Ever since the 1980s, when the Met Police Commissioner imported the colonial tactics of Brigadier Sir Frank Kitson from the north of Ireland to policing in England, the textbook recommendation in such situations is a mixture of plans to improve ‘community engagement’ with the police on the one hand, and to tool up with more weaponry on the other. This report is no exception, proposing more liaison with key individuals, more use of social media etc, coupled with greater police access to baton rounds to fire at protesters, and the purchase of three water cannon vehicles.

Nicki Jameson

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

 

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