UK riots: Police, politicians play blame game

A top British police officer said it was police, not MPs, who had restored order.

London: As the death toll from violent riots in England rose to five, a top British police officer has slammed political leaders for finding fault with the cops` handling of the unrest while authorities summoned two social networking sites and makers of BlackBerry to discuss their roles in preventing future outbreaks.

More than 1,700 people have been arrested across England for their alleged role in one of the worst riots in decades. Nearly 600 of them have been charged with violence, disorder and looting.

Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was police, not MPs, who had restored order.

"The fact that politicians chose to come back (from holiday as Parliament was recalled) is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing," he told BBC last evening.

"The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference; they were a function of the numbers being available to allow the chief constables to change their tactics."

However, today, he denied a rift with ministers despite criticism from them of the police`s handling of the riots.

Orde said he had received "outstanding" support from Home Secretary Theresa May who had accepted that officers were not infallible.

His remarks followed Prime Minister David Cameron`s address to the emergency session of Parliament yesterday during which he said police tactics had been inadequate when the rioting started in the north London area of Tottenham on Saturday following the killing of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in firing by cops on Thursday.

Acting Met Police Commissioner Tim Godwin also denied that police were too "timid" in their initial response to the riots and said decisions about tactics and numbers were "all police decisions".

He said that "if police officers had the benefit of hindsight as foresight we would obviously do things slightly differently", adding that: "We always learn from what occurs."

Observing that "free flow of information" can sometimes be a problem, the British government has summoned Twitter and Facebook as well as Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, for a meeting.

Cameron told reporters that Home Secretary May would hold meetings with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion to discuss their responsibilities to prevent future incidents.

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organised via social media," Cameron said in Parliament yesterday.

"Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them."

Cameron also said that government officials are working with authorities "to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”.

Meanwhile, a 68-year-old man, who was critically injured in the violence, has died.

Richard Mannington Bowes, who suffered head injuries and had slipped into comma, was the fifth person to have died in the unrest that dented the Cameron government`s image inside and outside the United Kingdom.

Three British Asians were killed in Birmingham on Wednesday when they were mowed down by a speeding car, while one man was found shot dead in a car on Croydon on Monday night.

Bowes tried to persuade rioters to stop their activities, but was instead attacked by teenagers who were setting fire to two industrial bins. The policemen who tried to help him were also attacked.

Detective Chief Inspector McFarlane said: "This was a brutal incident that resulted in the senseless killing of an innocent man".

The man who was found shot in a car in Croydon was Trevor Ellis, 26. He and his friends were reportedly involved in a row with another group, resulting in a chase involving three cars. Ellis was shot during the pursuit.

The three Pakistani-origin people killed in Birmingham were Haroon Jahan, 21; Shazad Ali, 30; and Abdul Musavir, 31.

Unveiling vigorous measures to tackle the riots, Cameron yesterday promised extra powers to police to quell the violence.

Tough-talking Cameron warned rioters that they would be tracked down, charged and punished for what they have done.

"We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done," he said.

"We will not allow a violent few beat us," Cameron, who cut short his holidays in Italy to deal with the situation here, told a rare recall of Parliament.


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