The youngest person prosecuted was a boy of 11, from North East London who smashed the window of a Debenham’s, causing £6000 worth of damage, and stole a bin worth £50.
The government say that the riots are one of the main reasons for the huge increases in prison population, particularly for young offenders.
David Cameron said at the time of the riots that those involved were ‘sick’ parts of society. The view of rioters became the great debate, with some people agreeing with Cameron, in that these people were criminals. Others, felt that the rioters were themselves victims.
There are many things to consider when trying to understand why so many children and young people took to the streets on August 6th 2011, to steal laptops, TVs and in other cases, food.
The approach to punishment was, as Cameron had promised, a harsh one. With some offences receiving double the punishment the same act would have received a year prior to the riots.
There are several important questions that the riots have raised:
Is the sentencing justifiable? Is it necessary to, at times, double the sentence? Is this punishing someone appropriately, fairly and in line with the offence committed, as the Justice System should?
Are children and young people entirely responsible? Is there anything else that could have added to the anger felt in these riots, or was it purely villainous crime by ‘evil’ and heartless youth?
A lot of those involved in the riots were children and youth from unprivileged and largely poor backgrounds. The recession and lack of jobs have surely not helped in the build of tensions as more and more of those struggling fall below poverty lines and help.
Cutbacks to services during times of recession have also inevitably closed youth centres and clubs. There are many other problems involved, and I do not want to make a simplistic and vague link between the cut in youth clubs and the riots, as I do not believe this was the only factor in the tensions felt at this time. However, I do believe many youth workers from these areas were certainly not surprised by what happened on August 6th.
Here is a short video from The Guardian, shot around where I live – Wood Green. It was filmed 6 days before the riots. It focuses on the closure of 8 youth centres in the Haringey Borough, and asks some young people what they think, with one young boy predicting ‘there will be riots’.
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO WATCH VIDEO