I have refrained from making many comments about the riots as I wanted time to reflect and consider the situation. One thing which has become very clear is that they weren’t restricted to Hackney, Tottenham, Croydon or Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol. Other areas, which received little or no publicity, were also subject to rioters with looting and other criminal activities. They included Romford, Dagenham, Barkingside, Ilford and Hainault and I expect other communities outside London. There were even some problems in the small shopping centre near to where we live: Hilldene.
Perhaps we should be considering the causes for our young people to do such wanton damage. We need to ask questions: is it bad parenting; the lack of suitable employment; life on the sink estates; the feeling of total hopelessness when teenagers watch bankers and politicians with their hands in the till facing little or no punishment when they are found guilty.
Various judges, politicians, magistrates and other commentators have said that exemplary sentences must be given to all the guilty parties. This has led to some of the most ludicrous sentences being passed in the courts: to quote one example 20 months in prison for a first offence despite a guilty plea with the offender handing himself in to the police. Very soon all the prisons will be full.
It costs around £45,000 to keep a person in prison for twelve months and just on the pure economics it makes little sense to fill our prisons with people who have committed fairly trivial crimes. Of course, those who have used violence, those who have done thousands of pounds of damage, those who have destroyed businesses with fire bombs or who have used violence against the police must warrant a custodial sentence. But for the rest, surely it would be better if any sentence included the provision for restitution and for clearing up the mess that has been created or for some other form of community service.
Perhaps the money we spend on keeping inadequate people locked up would be better spent in providing better facilities, better education and providing hope to the hopeless and socially inadequate.