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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1456-i i
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Policing Large Scale Disorder
Thursday 8 September 2011
Nick de Bois and Mr Andrew Nicholas
David Lammy, Mr Niche Mpala Mufwankolo and Lynn Radose
Shabana Mahmood, Amrick Ubhi, Khalid Mahmood and Michael Brown
Jane Ellison and Reverend Paul Perkin
Evidence heard in Public Questions 196 - 348
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Thursday 8 September 2011
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Rt Hon. Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, gave evidence.
Q196 Chair: I call the Committee to order and welcome the Home Secretary to the second session of the Committee, which is concerned with the disorders that occurred in August this year. Home Secretary, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. Could I first start with the declaration of interests of members of this Committee? Mr Michael?
Alun Michael: My son is Chief Executive of the North West Police Authority.
Chair: Thank you.
Q197 Chair: Home Secretary, these are very busy times for you, as usual. Can I start, before we go into the riots, with a question on the dramatic decision by the Government to postpone the elections of police and crime commissioners? They were to take place in May next year, but were moved to November next year, which is, of course, in direct contrast to the evidence given to us by yourself, Ministers and others who were emphatic that there ought to be elections in May. We sought to have them as quickly as possible; they were an essential part of your new Landscape for Policing. Why have you suddenly decided to make such a dramatic U-turn?
Theresa May: Thank you, Chairman, for the opportunity to come before the Committee, particularly in relation to the report that you are doing on the public disorder issues. In regard to the elections for the police and crime commissioners, I think you yourself, Chairman, had indicated that you thought in the past that perhaps May 2012 is not the appropriate date and they should be postponed.
The reason why we took the decision-when I appeared before this Committee previously it was our firm intention to retain the May 2012 decision. Having looked at the timetable which was appearing following the vote that took place in the Lords, and having thought that through further and had the conversations with the Electoral Commission about the amount of time necessary, and given that this is to prepare for the first time we will have had police and crime commissioner elections, we decided it was appropriate to delay it for that period into the autumn of 2012, and specifically into November.
That will give full and proper time to enable us to ensure that not just the practicalities of the election are in place, as with the requirements of the Electoral Commission, but also that we are able to make sure that campaigns can be run about the new body. The new individuals will be elected so that people are fully aware of who these individuals are, what their responsibilities will be and the importance of these elections.
Q198 Chair: But this was put to witnesses, including Ministers, and we said that the best course of action was to postpone until after the Olympics. The Ministers were very clear and emphatic: they had to go on in May. We heard yesterday from the Prime Minister that it is going to cost an extra £25 million. That is about 2,000 police officers. Is this not a decision that has been taken because Mr Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have decided to put party issues above the high principles that you and the Prime Minister feel are important in terms of democratic accountability?
Theresa May: Chairman, when I was questioned previously about whether the election should be postponed beyond the Olympics, I saw no reason in relation to the Olympics why the election should be postponed. Remember that our original timetable for getting the Bill through Parliament was that we would have finished the Bill by now; it would be on the Statute Book. We had hoped to do that in July 2011 so that would have given a longer period of time prior to the May 2012 elections.
Now, because of decisions that were taken in the Lords and the length of time it took for the proper consideration in the Lords, that timetable has been delayed and, having looked at it again, we did feel that it was right to ensure that we had a good length of time in preparation for the elections, retaining 2012. That is important because it means that the police and crime commissioners will be able then to set the 2013 budget that is important for them, but it does give that extra bit of time to ensure that we have every aspect covered.
Q199 Chair: So Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has had absolutely nothing to do with this and you are quite happy, even though you are facing cuts of 20% in your budget, to spend an extra £25 million on this?
Theresa May: I can assure you, Chairman, the money is not coming out of policing settlement and we are in discussion with the Treasury as to the best way of ensuring that that funding is available. As you may recall, the £50 million that it was going to cost to hold the elections in May has been provided by the Treasury and has not come out of the policing settlement or the Home Office settlement.
Q200 Chair: So where will it come from? How has it suddenly appeared?
Theresa May: We are in discussions with the Treasury as to the best way of funding that.
Chair: So at the moment you do not know where it is coming from?
Theresa May: As I say, we are in discussions with the Treasury. As you might know, Chairman, discussions with the Treasury can often be lengthy matters.
Steve McCabe: November 2012?
Chair: I might move on now to the disorders and the evidence given to us-[Interruption.] Sorry, Mr Winnick has a question.
Q201 Mr Winnick: As far as the police commissioners are concerned, some of us would wish it could be postponed indefinitely, Home Secretary, but can I ask you about the Metropolitan Police post-the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police? I think you were reported in the newspapers, directly or indirectly as the case may be, as saying that under no circumstances should someone who is not a UK citizen be appointed to that position because there has been a particular American individual named. Is that your position?
Theresa May: My position is very clear. I set it out a few weeks ago and it is the following. I certainly do not want a delay, given that we are coming up to Olympic year and given the uncertainties for the Met that have occurred as a result of the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson-and, of course, they had the resignation of Assistant Commissioner John Yates as well.
I do not want to postpone the appointment of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner; I think it is important that we get somebody in the post in good time. The Met has particular responsibilities over and above just the policing of London. Crucially among those of course, it currently has responsibilities for counter-terrorism. In that aspect of national security it is appropriate that, and it is one of the reasons why, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has always been a British citizen, and a reason why I think it is important that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner remains a British citizen. I also have the view that there are a number of good candidates in the UK who are well able to take on the role of leading the Met.
Q202 Mr Winnick: As far as counter-terrorism is concerned, of course we are the closest ally, are we not, with the United States? So I am just wondering whether an American citizen could, in any way, be considered, bearing in mind this particular person’s background? He has a lot of experience of the police. I am not suggesting that he should have been appointed or shortlisted; I am just wondering whether there could be any possible doubt about his commitment to counter-terrorism.
Theresa May: It is not an issue about any particular individual’s commitment to counter-terrorism. It is about the fact that in dealing with counter-terrorism and national security matters related to the UK, there are certain aspects of that which are open only to a British citizen.
Q203 Chair: Anyway, you have a shortlist but we had evidence from the Mayor of London, who was very clear that when the decision was to be taken, it was going to be a joint decision between you and him. Is that your understanding-that it is a decision of equality rather than you having the final say? What is your understanding?
Theresa May: The formal position, Chairman, in relation to this, as you know, is that the Home Secretary makes a recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen and the appointment is for Her Majesty the Queen to make. I will be interviewing candidates with the Mayor of London and will obviously be discussing those candidates with the Mayor. I have also received views from the Metropolitan Police Authority on the candidates who we will be interviewing. They have obviously been through a proper interview panel process. The Metropolitan Police Authority have given me their views and the Mayor and I will be interviewing together. Obviously, we will be discussing the matter after we have held those interviews.
Q204 Chair: The Mayor left us with the clear impression that if a certain candidate was not acceptable to him-and there are only four candidates, as I understand it. The announcement is going to be made by you on Monday, so time is obviously-that is what he told the Committee. Was that wrong?
Theresa May: We will be interviewing candidates on Monday. Whether it is possible to make an announcement on Monday will depend on practicalities because as I say, we cannot make an announcement until the decision has formally been taken by Her Majesty the Queen. The timing of the announcement is not entirely within the Home Office’s decision and we will obviously be following proper processes to ensure that an announcement can come out as soon as possible. I am not saying it will not be Monday; I am just cautioning the Committee.
Q205 Chair: I can only tell you what the evidence given to a Committee of this House was. The Mayor was very clear to this Committee that the announcement was to be made on Monday. So you are just telling us that that is not necessarily going to be the case. It does not sound as if these discussions are going particularly well if the Mayor thinks he is going to make the announcement on Monday and you quite rightly have said that there are practicalities which mean that it might not be. So, do you tell this Committee now that it might be on Monday?
Theresa May: It might be on Monday.
Chair: It "might" be rather than it "will" be.
Theresa May: Yes. All I am doing is saying that I would not want to say categorically in case there is any hold-up in the process that we rightly go through.
Chair: I think it may be in everyone’s interest that somebody contacts the Mayor and tells him this because he was quite clear to this Committee when he gave evidence on Tuesday-unless he is watching these proceedings, of course.
Theresa May: Well, I can assure you, Chairman, that we are in contact with the Mayor’s office and I am intending to speak to the Mayor later this morning about the arrangements that are put in place.
Chair: Excellent. But at the end of the day, it is you who will make this decision. It is your recommendation. You can discuss all you can with the Mayor but, as with previous Home Secretaries, you will make that final recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen.
Theresa May: The formal position is that it is the recommendation of the Home Secretary to Her Majesty the Queen. Of course, if you look at the structures we have, I cannot envisage a situation in which one would want a candidate going forward who a Mayor was saying they could not work with, for example, because that would not work in practical terms. That is why it is very important for those discussions with the Mayor to be part-
Q206 Chair: Is it a veto or is it something you have to take into consideration?
Theresa May: I am tempted to say that in the normal course of how one deals with these things, I think using the language of veto or "do you take into consideration"-we are not normally going to be sitting down and talking in those sorts of terms. The Mayor and I will be interviewing together and we will discuss together the candidates that have come forward, and, as I say, formally a recommendation will go to Her Majesty the Queen.
Chair: Finally on this, the veto word was not mine; it was the Mayor’s word when he gave evidence and said he would veto a candidate who did not support his gang strategy. These are not the Committee’s words, these were his words. You have been very helpful on that. Thank you.
Q207 Chair: Let us move on now to the riots. You, of course, were abroad like the rest of us. Parliament was closed when this all happened. When did you first get informed about the disorders that were happening in London?
Theresa May: I first learned about the disorders on Sunday morning-the disorder that had taken place on the Saturday evening. I spoke to the Assistant Commissioner that morning who gave me an operational update and I received updates through the day. During that day, I spoke again to the Acting Commissioner and I had conversations with the Prime Minister, with the Deputy Prime Minister, with David Lammy-of course, his constituency had been so badly affected-with the Mayor, with the Deputy Mayor, and with the duty Minister at the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone.
Q208 Chair: What is the role of the Home Secretary in such circumstances? We have had some very strong evidence from the Acting Commissioner and the President of ACPO that the police were taking the lead at all times in these issues. You arrived back on the Monday before the Prime Minister and before the Mayor, and you presumably had certain views as to why these riots had occurred. It is early days of course, but why do you think these disorders occurred?
Theresa May: I think that is very difficult to say, Chairman, and I think it is not helpful for politicians to speculate suddenly as to what has happened. I think there are a number of issues here that we can only properly assess when we have a proper analysis of the people who were involved in the riots.
A lot of people thought initially this was something that was very much about gangs and young people. It is obvious that gangs were involved. Young people were involved but of those who have been arrested so far, the figures show that only about a quarter-only about 25% or so, around that sort of figure-were juveniles.
Now, the problem is that at the moment we have figures for any point in time, but of course the number of arrests is changing and will continue to change, I think, for some time. I think it will increase for some time. So the actual picture about who has been involved is going to be a slightly moving picture and until we know that, it is difficult to look at the exact cause-what triggered the crime, if I can use that phrase. But I am absolutely clear that what underlay it was criminality. I think we see that about three quarters of those who have been arrested so far have had some form of criminal record, be it a caution or other disposal.
Q209 Chair: Because the Prime Minister was very clear when he spoke to the House on 11 August. He said that there were simply far too few police officers deployed on the streets and the tactics that they were using were not working. That is quite a serious criticism by a Prime Minister of the way in which the police have operated. Do you share that criticism?
Theresa May: Well, let us be absolutely clear. Perhaps if I can go back to the point you made about roles because I think this is obviously an important aspect; the roles of the Home Secretary, the politicians and the police are different.
The police have operational independence. We are absolutely clear about that. They make the operational decisions, but it is absolutely right that the politicians-and obviously particularly myself as Home Secretary and the Prime Minister; but in the particular role that I am in-make clear to the police, and that I make clear to the police, what the public view of what was happening was and what the public expectation of policing was.
Also, the police need to know that they have the politicians’ backing for decisions that they are taking. It is one of the issues that has come up in the whole question of public order policing; that was made very clear to me by some front line riot officers in Salford when I visited them-that they need to have confidence as to what they can do, how they can police and that the politicians will back them in that policing. So the operational decisions are down to the police officers, but it is right that the politicians make clear what the public expectations are of those police officers.
Now in terms of what happened in policing, obviously the riots took place initially on the Saturday evening. There was some spread to other parts of London on the Sunday. On the Monday the Met had-and I visited the operations centre and the gold command briefing on that Monday evening with the Acting Commissioner.
Chair: Yes. We will come on to the time scales.
Theresa May: Yes, can I just make the point? I mean, they did put more officers on the street on that Monday night, but that proved not to be enough and they then had to increase the number that they put on the streets.
Q210 Chair: So do you agree with the Prime Minister that, practically, the tactics were not working? This was an error of judgment. Do you agree with the Prime Minister?
Theresa May: I think patently obviously it is right for the Prime Minister to say-and as I have said as well, and indeed as I think senior police officers have accepted-that the numbers they put on the street on Monday night did not work. It was when they increased the numbers that they put on the streets, together with a tough arrests policy which we have been clear about as well, that that actually had the impact.
Q211 Alun Michael: Can I just return to the question of the issue of the number of offenders or people who had previous offences? I welcome the measured approach that you have taken by saying that we need to be careful about jumping to conclusions, and I do not blame Ken Clarke for jumping to conclusions on what appeared, at first instance, to be a factor behind the proportion of people with previous.
Would you agree that it is important for us to be absolutely certain about what the facts are before coming to conclusions? Some of the conclusions that have been highlighted in the press have suggestions that we should put it down to feral youth and a failure of the criminal justice system. Do you agree that those should be set aside until we have the absolute facts and can therefore make judgments with clarity?
Theresa May: Well, one thing I would say is that there are a number of elements, I think, looking at what happened, and some of those elements may vary from site to site. I think, for example, we have seen that some of the riots-the behaviour that we saw in Salford-may have come from a different generation and different cause from some other areas and parts of the country. Similarly, there will be other examples too.
What I do think is important is that it is absolutely clear that we did see young people, in a wider sense than merely juveniles, out on the streets. Disorder, arson, criminality-that is the key thing for me. This was criminality that was taking place on our streets. We do need to look at some wider issues than simply the policing of this public disorder, of course. It is right that we should do that on the basis of a proper analysis of who was involved and the groups that were involved.
Alun Michael: Indeed. So we should be certain about the facts before that informs public policy.
Theresa May: What I would say, Mr Michael, is that there is some work that we are doing on gangs particularly. I am chairing the Inter-Ministerial Group on Gangs that the Government has brought together, and I will be reporting to Parliament in October on the work of that group. One of the things we are trying to do is to look at the involvement of gangs; it is possible that that is not as high as people at first thought, but that does not mean that the Government should not be doing work on gangs. I think that is a piece of work that needs to be done anyway.
Chair: We will come on to gangs in a moment.
Q212 Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, I would just like to talk about the police numbers on the streets and their response. On the Saturday night, there were approximately 9,000 officers on duty. By the Tuesday, there were over 24,000. Were you satisfied with the speed and manner that the police responded to the riots?
Theresa May: Well, I think what we saw were situations where at points in time, people watching what was happening felt that those who were on the streets seemed to be in control of parts of the streets. I have spoken to individuals who were living in areas that were affected and who were obviously, genuinely frightened about what was happening outside their homes and on those streets.
This goes to one of the reasons why I have asked the HMIC to look at the whole question of public order tactics and the numbers of police needed in these situations. What the police were confronted with was a situation that was unprecedented and that they had not dealt with before. They were particularly confronted with a situation where messages were going round very quickly on the social media. Activity was springing up far more quickly than they had seen it happening before and they were having to find ways of coping with that. They were putting in place what they believed from their experience was going to be policing that worked. In the event, on the Monday night it did not, and they had to increase those numbers on the Tuesday.
Q213 Lorraine Fullbrook: What do you consider were the strengths and weaknesses between the Saturday and the Tuesday?
Theresa May: Well, I think one of the things that we perhaps need to look at is the nature of what actually took place on those occasions-and I think the nature of the activity was different on the Saturday night from on the Tuesday night-but I think the ability across the country to be able to pull in the extra resources was very important for the police and was a great strength. The PNICC, under ACPO, worked very well in terms of providing that extra resource that needed to come in.
Some of the questions that we need to ask, and these are the ones I have asked HMIC to look at, are particularly around the number of police who are trained in public order and at what level those police are trained in public order. That is a point that chief constables, some outside London, have made to me as well as discussed within London.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you.
Q214 Alun Michael: Is there a need for increasing or expanding the powers and techniques available to the police in dealing with large scale disorder? If so, do you have any idea of what new powers or techniques should be made available?
Theresa May: Yes, I think we do need to look at it. I mean, we obviously need to look at whether the police have the powers available to them to do the job that they need to do. If I could just say here, in response to the previous question, that the other strength was the sheer bravery of our police officers who went out there on the streets and faced some appalling circumstances. Certainly, when I spoke to those riot officers in Salford-I mentioned this in the House-one of them said to me that the sky was dark because it was raining bricks on them. We asked them to put themselves in that position and they did it. They did it very bravely, but we do need to make sure that when they are in that position they do have the full powers and techniques available to them. We have already said that we will be introducing legislation to enable them to have greater powers in relation to face coverings. As you will know, Mr Michael, there is a limited power that could be exercised in certain circumstances to require the removal of face coverings. We want to extend that power in terms of the removal of face coverings.
We are looking at the issue of curfews. One of the things that the police did start to introduce and use effectively was dispersal orders, but of course those, again, have limitations in the way in which they can be used. So we will look at whether there is a requirement for some greater powers in relation to the operation of curfews.
Q215 Alun Michael: The question of resilience, obviously, has been very important indeed. It is a matter of fact-we can argue about numbers-that there will be fewer trained and experienced police officers available in future. That is going to have an impact on resilience, isn’t it? You have spoken on the one hand of increasing the numbers who are trained in public order, but there is going to be a smaller number of officers overall. What effect do you think that is going to have?
Theresa May: As I have said previously, at the end of the spending review, the number of police officers available would still be such that would enable the police to deploy in the sort of way that they did in response to the riots. I hope that they never need to have to deal with anything like this again.
Q216 Alun Michael: But it is bound to have an impact, isn’t it?
Theresa May: As I say, at the end of the spending review, the number of police that will be available will enable them to deploy in a similar way to the way they did during the riots.
Q217 Alun Michael: There have been some comments and suggestions in the media about involving the Army. Would you like to comment on those?
Theresa May: Yes, there was. Obviously, when the riots were still taking place, there was quite a bit of commentary about what should happen next. The Government’s position was very clear-that it was the Government’s role to ensure that all possibilities had been looked at and that we were examining what might be necessary in relation to the answer to the questions, "What if the extra police on the streets had not worked? What if we had seen those riots continuing?" I think it is right; in that context, the Government looked at the issue of water cannon, for example-ensure that should the police want that, it was available.
Chair: But you were against the use of water cannon. You were quite firm about that.
Theresa May: I, and indeed senior police officers, said that in this circumstance they did not believe the water cannon was right. I think it is not something we have traditionally used on the mainland. Obviously, it has been used in Northern Ireland. The circumstances in the disorder we saw taking place were such that it is questionable whether a water cannon would have been of benefit.
Q218 Chair: Indeed. Clear up, if you can, three quick points on what happened at the time. You are very clear in your mind that it was the police that were responsible for the surge. Mr Godwin gave evidence on Tuesday to say that the decision for the surge was taken before the COBRA meeting, not at the COBRA meeting, and that politicians were not involved in that decision.
Theresa May: What had happened was that obviously the Prime Minister, the Acting Commissioner and I met before the COBRA meeting and the Acting Commissioner set out his plans to ensure that there were greater numbers on the streets.
Chair: That was his decision?
Theresa May: The police proposed that they should put greater numbers on the streets. They had calculated the number that they wished to put on the streets and they came to that meeting with myself and the Prime Minister and we discussed those numbers on the streets.
Chair: Well, that is not what Mr Godwin has said to us. He is very clear that the decision was taken with his management team on the Monday night and that he then informed you, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister that the surge would take place. Are you saying there was more of a discussion?
Theresa May: No, I think that is just what I have said. He told us what the numbers were and we discussed.
Chair: Right-that that was what he was going to do?
Theresa May: We discussed those numbers and-
Chair: But it was his decision?
Theresa May: Yes.
Q219 Chair: Absolutely. Secondly, the statement that you made that all leave was to be cancelled-could you clear that up? Did you make that order or was that again an operational decision?
Theresa May: No. What happened was that as a result of what was taking place on the Tuesday night, I decided to have a conference call with chief constables on the Wednesday morning. I had that conference call with chief constables. At that stage, it was clear that the action that had been taken by the Met-and the Met had, of course, cancelled leave, they had called on special constables, they put more police on the streets-together with their tougher arrest policy, had had an impact. I made it absolutely clear to chiefs up and down the country that I expected them to follow the example that had been shown by the Met in terms of police leave, of recalling special constables and of ensuring that there were proper numbers on the streets to deal with disorder.
Chair: So it was an expectation, not an order?
Theresa May: I made it absolutely clear to them that I expected that that was what would be happening.
Chair: Okay, thank you.
Q220 Mr Winnick: Would you accept, Home Secretary, that the events initially were triggered off by the police shooting of Mark Duggan?
Theresa May: Obviously, the shooting of Mark Duggan took place on the Thursday, and I would be very cautious in saying that the events have the direct link that you are talking about in this sense. I know that at the time the Duggan family made it clear that in their view, there was nothing that should have led to those riots on the streets; I cannot quote the exact words that were set out.
An incident took place in terms of the shooting of an individual on the Thursday night, and we then saw the riots taking place. Quite what happened in relation to those people who chose to go out on those streets and act in a criminal way-set fire to buildings, damage buildings and cause disorder and riot on our streets-quite what led them to do that and what initiated that is something that none of us can wholeheartedly 100% say we know.
Mr Winnick: Yes. I was talking or asking you about what happened initially. Clearly later, when rioting and disorder took place, it was quite likely that those involved knew nothing about Mark Duggan. But again, I would put to you the point that initially the disturbances were caused by the death of Mark Duggan by the police. Would you accept that?
Theresa May: Well, the order of events, as I understand it, was, obviously, that this shooting took place. On the Saturday, there was a peaceful demonstration of a limited number of people. When those people had left the scene, then a larger number of people came and disorder exacerbated, or the disorder occurred and then that was exacerbated.
Mr Winnick: I am wondering how concerned you are, as Home Secretary, about what happened when Mr Duggan’s girlfriend, or partner, visited the police station? She is quoted as saying that when she went to the police station to find out precisely the circumstances, she was told, "Don’t worry, it is being sorted out" and they should go and wait outside so that the police could deal with other people. They waited-that is, Miss Wilson-some four hours. Isn’t that a rather disturbing state of affairs?
Theresa May: The whole question of how the issue of Mark Duggan’s death was relayed to the family and how both the Metropolitan Police, and indeed the IPCC, dealt with this is being investigated and is being looked into. It is important that we allow that to take place before making any comments in relation to those events. I think it is important that those are properly looked at and considered by the bodies that are doing so.
Q221 Mr Winnick: Obviously, this Committee is conducting its own inquiry, but you will know that on the Floor of the House, a number of Members suggested that there should be a public inquiry into some of the worst disorders this country has seen for some 10 or 12 years, or longer. Are you totally opposed to a public inquiry?
Chair: Can we have a quick answer?
Theresa May: Well, I was going to say that I take the view, as the Prime Minister did, that this Committee of this House is doing its report, and obviously we will look forward to seeing the results of the Committee of the House. There are some wider issues around this whole question of the public disorder which are being looked at in a variety of forms, but I think we very much look forward to the report of this Committee.
Chair: Your confidence in us is greatly appreciated, Home Secretary.
Q222 Mr Clappison: Home Secretary, it is important that we have the fullest information about the rioters and what triggered the riots. It is apparent that a number of those who were involved were opportunists who were carried along with it, although doing serious criminal acts, and also that there was an element of copycat, but you yourself have said in your evidence that there was evidence of some propagation and planning and spread of the riots from one place to another. Have you an assessment as to what extent gangs may have been involved in that? If it was not gangs, can you make any comments about who else it might have been?
Theresa May: Yes. The Metropolitan Police particularly, but obviously other forces, are looking at the number of people who they have arrested who have known gang affiliations. The problem is that as the number of arrests changes, that percentage of people involved in gangs changes as well. So we have seen, in fact, the percentage of people involved in gangs fall slightly over time as further people have been arrested. So I think it is true to say that on current evidence, it would seem that the majority of people involved were not individuals who had been involved in gangs, although obviously a number of people involved were involved in gangs. But there is some evidence that obviously there was some gang activity taking place in terms of encouraging people to take part in these events. As we say, some of that encouragement was being propagated on social media.
Mr Clappison: That was coming from gangs-some of it was coming from gangs?
Theresa May: Some of it was coming from gangs. I think some it would have been coming from others-other individuals.
Q223 Mr Clappison: In any case, you yourself have rightly said that there are far too many young people involved in gangs, whose influence can be baleful. I think you quoted on the House of Commons floor a figure of 6%, and I am pleased to hear that you have a strategy in place-you are developing a strategy to deal with this, and I hope that it is one which will have the full weight of Government behind it. Can you give us an assurance that the strategy will be looking at not just discouraging people from joining gangs, but giving a constructive way out for people who want to leave that particular way of life?
Theresa May: Indeed it will. If I can perhaps give the Committee a little bit of information about the Inter-Ministerial Group, it is a genuine cross-Government Inter-Ministerial group we have brought together, and I am working obviously closely with Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who has a particular background through his work with the Centre for Social Justice in looking at some of these issues.
But we have brought together not just the DWP, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice-we have also brought in the Department of Health, which I think is an important player in this picture; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport-I think sport is one of the other outlets that we can point to; the Department of Education, because I think education is also an aspect of this; and indeed, from DWP, where people are old enough to be in work, ensuring that people have work opportunities is another part of the picture.
Mr Clappison: Are you looking at what has worked elsewhere and, if necessary, thinking out of the box, because I think there will be some support for that in the present circumstances?
Theresa May: Yes, we will be. We are doing two things. First of all, I am going to be hosting an international conference, probably in early October. We are casting around and looking across the world, finding out countries who have gang problems. Obviously, the United States is a particular example here, but there are some other examples, too. We will be bringing people together to do exactly that, to find out what is working elsewhere.
We are also looking within the UK. There is some good practice within the UK. The Met itself has been doing some work on gangs. We had evidence the other day at the Inter-Ministerial Group from Waltham Forest-the work that the council and the Met have been doing there with some good effect. Strathclyde is another example where a lot of work is being done on gangs. So we are looking as widely as possible at what has worked and then one of the issues for us will be how we ensure that what works is put into practice.
Q224 Lorraine Fullbrook: Home Secretary, just to go back to the social media, I understand BB Messenger was the main conduit of spreading information. Have you found in any of the investigations that there was an element of postcode swapping among not only gangs, but people who were just joining in the criminality-for example, in the different locations? In Battersea, did they go to Croydon, and in Croydon did they go to Battersea? Has there been an element of postcode swapping?
Theresa May: I think that there has been some evidence of some postcode swapping-that people were willing to go outside, people who normally would have conducted their criminality in one postcode being willing to go to another postcode.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you.
Q225 Steve McCabe: Home Secretary, can I just go back to the gang issue for a second? Members of this Committee received an e-mail yesterday from a Met officer who retired a week before the disturbances. This gentleman says he was previously part of Operation Trident, and he claims that there is a widespread view within the Met that the gangs are so organised that they pose a serious threat to disrupt the Olympics. I wondered if anyone had brought that to your attention and if you had any comment you could make.
Theresa May: Well, obviously in any case we had significant plans in place in relation to security of the Olympics and within those plans, issues of potential for public disorder had of course been considered. Now following the riots, we are already doing the work to look again at whether there is anything we need to learn from the riots and the policing of the riots in relation to the Olympics. So we are certainly looking at the-as you might imagine, in relation to the security of the Olympics, we look at every issue that we believe we need to be aware of and consider in the work that we are doing.
Q226 Steve McCabe: Thank you. Can I just ask about another aspect of the role you played during this? I was struck earlier when you were saying that we need to reflect on what we really know. You were quite harsh in your criticism of police authority chairs and members of police authorities and you contrasted it with the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Do you feel, in hindsight, that you may have been a bit too harsh and a little uninformed about the role of police authority members throughout the country? I know, for example, that the Chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority did contact you to give you some information about the role that members have played there.
Theresa May: Well, the point I made, and I made it in a speech-
Steve McCabe: You made it on the television and we all saw it, so that is why I am asking if you were too harsh and a bit unfair.
Theresa May: The point I made was this. What we saw in London with the Mayor was that the Mayor was very highly visible-obviously, he was away at the time that the riots started, he came back from his holiday and he was highly visible on the streets. He and I, in fact, both went down to Lavender Hill on the Tuesday and met people there who were involved. He was around various parts of London where the riots and disorder had taken place, so he was highly visible out there with people and in a way that I had not seen other chairmen of police authorities and other police authority members being.
Steve McCabe: So is that a measure for police commissioners in the future-"If you are visible, you are doing your job. If you are doing it with less public exposure, it doesn’t count"? Is that a conclusion I should draw?
Theresa May: It is not a question of whether or not it is public exposure, but part of the job is about listening to the public.
Q227 Steve McCabe: Well, lots of police authority chairs were listening to the public. Let me ask you one final question about the riot damages situation. Who assesses the claims and where does that money come from? Is that another negotiation with the Treasury or do you have money reserved for that?
Theresa May: No, money is available for that, and there are arrangements between the Home Office and the Treasury to ensure that that money is covered. There is a proper process of loss adjusters going in and making assessments about the claims, and a number of claims have already been received. The time period has not yet finished, ended. As you know, we extended it from the normal 14 days to 42 days, but there is a proper process where claims are looked through, as you might imagine, to ensure that they do fit the requirements.
Steve McCabe: Thank you.
Q228 Michael Ellis: Home Secretary, we heard from the Association of Chief Police Officers earlier this week, and they said that they had not yet calculated-various police forces who had been helping the Metropolitan Police in mutual aid-the cost of this policing operation. When you eventually have some costings, how do you anticipate the cost of policing these riots will be met? For example, I am very conscious of the fact that, of course, the Government has been left a legacy of considerable debt by the previous Government, but presumably we have to find the resources from somewhere. How do you anticipate the costs of policing these riots will be met?
Theresa May: Obviously, there are processes in place in relation to enabling these forces to make claims for special grants into the Home Office, and obviously, as is always the case in these situations, there is a discussion with the police authority concerned about the claims that are made, but we have been clear that we are willing to-there is money that will be made available to cover costs in relation to these. There will be discussions about the level of those costs, as you might imagine. As I have just said in relation to the Riot (Damages) Act, there are proper processes that one needs to go through. The Home Office has ensured that we can make money available and obviously has done that in conjunction with the Treasury.
Michael Ellis: The costs are presumably still ongoing. Is some mutual aid still in progress, is that right, as far as assisting the Metropolitan Police is concerned?
Theresa May: Obviously, the mutual aid for the Met did continue beyond the riots. It has varied up and down. Significantly, they continued-particularly when they were policing the Notting Hill Carnival, they produced mutual aid in relation to that. As I understand it, we have not had a formal bid from the Met for what their costs will be. I understand they are still in the process of calculating those, but I look forward to receiving it in due course.
Chair: Thank you, Mr Ellis. But they did give us a figure on Tuesday. The estimated figure was £74 million, and Sir Hugh Orde said-and Mr Ellis is quite right-that the final figures have not been worked out, but for the rest of the country it was £50 million. The Prime Minister was very clear in the House, in answer to one of my questions, that the Government would pay these costs. I think his words were on 11 August, "We stand by the police". Is that still the case? Obviously, there is negotiation about figures, but at the end of the day the principle is that the Government will help?
Theresa May: The Government will provide help. As I said in my answer to Mr Ellis, we have ensured that there will be money available in the Home Office. There will, though, as you yourself recognised, Chairman, have to be a proper discussion with the various police authorities as to the order of costs that can be covered and the proper figure that arises, and that process-
Chair: You do not want these figures to be inflated along-you want to be sure that these are the right figures, of course?
Theresa May: It was not me who suggested, Chairman, that anybody might consider inflating these figures.
Chair: I was not suggesting that either. I was saying just in case it was.
Michael Ellis: Yes. I presume there is an established protocol for these costs to be calculated and submitted?
Theresa May: Yes.
Q229 Nicola Blackwood: There was obviously a lot of debate at the time about the role that social media played in promoting the public disorder, and there was also a lot of discussion about whether it would be appropriate to shut down social media sites at the time of widespread disorder. I know that the Home Office decided that they would look into this.
We have subsequently, though, heard from the Mayor, the Acting Commissioner and ACPO that their view, in retrospect, is that social media sites are net positive, because they can dispel rumour and they can also give out information about how to keep yourself safe and about what the police are doing. I wonder, in the light of that, what view the Home Office has now come to. I know that you have had some meetings and I wonder if you could inform the Committee of where you stand now on social media sites during times of public disorder.
Theresa May: Yes, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make it absolutely clear that at no stage were the Home Office or the Government talking about closing down these social media networks. We have had a very constructive meeting with the companies, with ACPO and the Met present at that meeting. What we discussed was that there were two aspects, one of which is how better use of these media can be made by the police. I think the practice is patchy throughout the country and it is necessary that we help the police-and I think the companies will be able to do this-to understand better how they can make best use of the social media networks.
On the other side, I think we all want to ensure that these networks are not being used to incite or encourage criminality or for criminal behaviour, and so we were discussing with the companies-and of course companies do have their own policies in relation to, for example, inappropriate material being put on site and they themselves will, on occasion, stop users because of the nature of the material that they are putting on. They have their own policies, but we have discussed with them how we can ensure that social media networks are not used to encourage criminality.
Nicola Blackwood: I know that there have been a couple of quite high profile prosecutions for encouraging rioting via social media. Is the Home Office considering using that as the route to control social media as a route for spreading disorder, rather than shutting down sites? Is that now the preferred route, or is it going to be used in social media as a means of intelligence gathering instead?
Theresa May: Well, I think it is certainly right, and it was instructive for those who have thought of using social media in this way, to see the sentences that were passed on those who did use social media to incite rioting and disorder. As I said, it was never our intention to take additional powers to close down social media networks-that was not the Home Office position or the Government position.
It is right that those who are using these in the sort of way that you have described are appropriately charged and taken through the criminal justice system, but I think what we need to do as well is look more generally at those two issues that I raised. One, how can positive use be made of the social media networks by the police? On the other hand, looking at the processes when we see that somebody is using a social media network, or trying to use it, to incite criminal behaviour.
Q230 Alun Michael: I have written to you, Home Secretary, in my capacity as Chair of the All-Party Group, which brings together people with an interest in internet and ICT issues with industry and others, and you have given a very positive response. I am encouraged by what you say.
Would you accept that, rather than looking for ways that powers of legislation or controls can be put in place, which might soon be out of date, the speed of technical development and of the social use of communications moves so fast that we need a partnership approach, involving Parliament and industry working with Government, to get the right ways of limiting illegal or damaging activity and enhancing the positives?
Theresa May: Indeed, and I am very grateful, Mr Michael, to your Committee for the help, support and advice that they have offered. We look forward to your comments on this particular issue. We need to ensure that we are working in partnership. If I am honest, I think the police have found it difficult to deal with this issue of the social media. It does mean that everything happens so quickly, and therefore we need to be doing what we can to help them, working with industry, to understand this and how they can make better use of it-how they can understand what is happening on the social media, significant amounts of information. Sometimes people talk about intelligence on the social media. A lot of it is just information out there; sifting what is genuine intelligence from what is misinformation and just information is one of the issues I think that they need to be looking at.
Chair: Can I just clear, since you are before the Committee-thank you for that answer, Home Secretary-on a number of non-riot questions? Mr Ellis.
Q231 Michael Ellis: Home Secretary, I want to ask you, if I may, moving on from the riots, about the deportation of foreign national prisoners. It is a matter of public record that the last Government failed to deport foreign national prisoners when they reached the end of their scheduled time in custody. Can you update the Committee now on the number of foreign national prisoners who are deported? Can you also say something about what you are doing to drive down the numbers?
Theresa May: Thank you, Mr Ellis. I am aware, Chairman, that this is an issue that this Committee has shown a particular interest in over time. Indeed, there was also some media speculation in the summer, during the recess, particularly about the number of people, foreign prisoners, who had not been considered for deportation, which is the process that, of course, should be gone into.
I am absolutely clear that if a foreign national, given a privilege when they come to this country, then commits a crime and they are sent to prison, they should be considered for deportation at the end of their sentence. I believe that is absolutely right, and we should be doing that. As you have made reference to, under the previous Government in 2005, it was established that 1,013 convicted foreign prisoners had failed to be considered for deportation as they should have been. Since then, I can tell the Committee that according to the most recent figures, in 2009-10, under the last Government, there were 64 cases where a foreign national prisoner had not been referred to them for consideration for deportation. In 2010-11-i.e. mainly under this Government-the figure was 28, and that compares to that 1,013 in 2006, or I think I said 2005.
All those 28 individuals are being considered for deportation, but it is right that the UKBA has done a lot of work on this-they have improved their interactions with the courts, but I am absolutely clear that we need to do more. This is an issue that has been rightly of concern to this Committee; it is of concern to the public as well, and there are a number of areas where I have tasked UKBA to take further action. I have tasked them to work more closely generally with partners in the criminal justice system to identify foreign nationals earlier, promoting early removals and sharing information. I have tasked them to work with the police to ensure that the Live Scan finger-scanning system that is available is used routinely by police officers to identify and fix nationality at the point of arrest, because identity lies behind this issue. I have tasked them to work more closely with NOMS to establish more foreign national-only prisons, which eases the process of removal.
Chair: Excellent. Home Secretary, will you also task them with something else? When this Committee writes to Mr Sedgwick asking for information, he should give us the figures that Mr Ellis has elicited from you today, rather than refer us to the Home Office website, which is rude and discourteous to a Committee of the House.
Theresa May: We have had discussions about this issue, Chairman, and I recognise the importance of responding properly to questions raised by this Committee.
Q232 Chair: Thank you. Now, just very quickly-I do not want to open this up-you signed a banning order against Sheikh Raed Salah. Despite signing the banning order, he boarded a flight from Tel Aviv. I understand he is still in this country. Though electronically tagged, he is free to travel around, though he is banned from public speaking. You initiated an investigation into why the ban that you had signed had not been served on him, or indeed given to the Israelis. It is now six weeks. Do we have a conclusion? Do we know why this order was never served on him, and why is he still here if he is such an inappropriate person to be in the United Kingdom?
Theresa May: He is still in the United Kingdom because of the legal processes that are open to him in terms of appealing against his deportation from the United Kingdom. That is going through and he is not being detained because the decision was taken by the courts that he could be released on bail.
Chair: Your investigation, it is six weeks?
Theresa May: The investigation, we have identified a number of aspects of the way the process operates which need to be dealt with.
Chair: Would you write to me with the information?
Theresa May: I am very happy to write to you with that information.
Chair: Because we are very concerned. We would like to know that when the Home Secretary bans somebody, the person does not arrive.
Theresa May: Yes. I am happy to write to you with that information. It involves action that will be taken by the UKBA and the Foreign Office.
Chair: Indeed. Secondly, there is someone who is not electronically tagged, but politically tagged, and that is Lord Wasserman, who, as you know, is now a co-ordinator for the new IT company that you have set up. On the very day that the Committee wished him to give evidence to us, he did not come, but he did speak publicly at a seminar in place of Nick Herbert, your junior Minister, and answer questions from the private sector about this new IT company.
Now we think, as a Committee, that when policy decisions are made-even if it is by a special advisor and they are prepared to go into the public domain and answer questions-they really ought to come to Parliament and answer the questions of the Select Committee. The Prime Minister was very clear at the Liaison Committee that when special advisors are asked, he would look at the issue of whether they should appear. But he clearly has a role that is way beyond a special advisor’s role. I am not asking you to give me an answer now. Would you look at the article in Computer Weekly, which sets out all the public engagements Lord Wasserman has been involved in, and consider again whether or not it would be appropriate for him to come before us? Otherwise, we just have to have Ministers back to answer these questions.
Theresa May: I will look at the issue. Obviously, given what the Prime Minister has said at the Liaison Committee, this will be an aspect of appearance before Select Committees, I am sure, that is being looked at more widely.
Q233 Chair: We hear in The Times today that you are selling off Bramshill-not you personally, but the Home Office, and you are the Home Secretary. If you are selling off Bramshill, where do you expect police officers are to be trained?
Theresa May: First of all, Chairman, no final decisions have been taken in relation to the estate. The NPIA work is being done as part of that process of looking at training and leadership, and post-NPIA situation, to look at the estate. When decisions are taken, they will be announced in the proper way.
Q234 Nicola Blackwood: The Committee heard some worrying evidence about the European arrest warrant, issues relating to forum and of course US-UK extradition treaty. We are waiting for the Government’s review of UK extradition policy. I wondered if there was any news about when that might be forthcoming.
Theresa May: I will happily write to the Committee concerning this, Chairman, but I think Mr Justice Scott Baker is due to report-the Committee is due to report to the Home Office at the end of September. I think that is the date, but I will confirm that to you.
Q235 Chair: As far as Gary McKinnon is concerned, it is now 18 months since it landed on your desk. We know it is a very difficult issue. We know the Americans want Mr McKinnon back as quickly as possible. When is Mr McKinnon going to have an answer?
Theresa May: Chairman, as you know, we have been in discussion with both Mr McKinnon’s representatives and I have been in discussion with the Chief Medical Officer about appropriate independent medical examination of Mr McKinnon. I believe-I thought that a letter had come to you on that matter, but I will check.
Chair: The only letters I get say that it is still being considered. We have no decision, presumably.
Theresa May: Yes, there is no decision on Mr McKinnon, because we are still discussing the medical issues.
Chair: Yes. Well, I am not really interested in a letter saying there is no decision. I would rather like a letter saying there has been one.
Theresa May: I will not be taking a decision until I have seen some independent medical advice.
Q236 Mr Clappison: Since the European arrest warrants have been mentioned, could I issue an invitation to you, Home Secretary-I do not need an answer, just an invitation to you-to look at the debate last night on the European directive on access to a lawyer and many other criminal procedure directives? In the course of that, serious concerns were expressed by the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee on a matter which is apparently still subject to negotiation. Can I just invite you to take a careful look at that, particularly from the point of view of this country not imposing further legal restraints on it which are not necessary?
Theresa May: I would be happy to look at the debate which Mr Clappison has referred to. I am sure that this was a debate in which the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee took a very active part.
Q237 Chair: Let me take you back to the beginning, finally. You have to make a decision, probably the most important decision of your term as Home Secretary, as to who the next Commissioner is going to be. You are telling us very clearly that this decision hopefully will come out on Monday, but it might be later, because of practicalities. It is a discussion that you are going to have with the Mayor, but the decision is yours, finally. I think you hope that it is going to be something of a waltz; he is expecting, I think, a foxtrot as far as negotiations are concerned, but whatever the discussions, it is your decision and your final decision. Is that right?
Theresa May: As I said earlier, Chairman, the Home Secretary makes a recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen. It is Her Majesty the Queen who appoints; it is not I appointing the-
Chair: Of course, yes, but I do not think she is going to interview the candidates, is she?
Theresa May: Just on the timing-
Mr Winnick: She is going through all the names at the moment.
Chair: Sorry, before you finish, Mr Michael has something which might affect what you have to say.
Q238 Alun Michael: Just on the issue of appointments, there seems to have been an extremely long delay on the appointment of the new Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The previous Chair moved to a new role as the Chief Inspector of Prisons before the last general election. When can we expect a decision on that?
Theresa May: That is close to being finalised, but the current Acting Chair has agreed to continue until the end of October.
Alun Michael: Yes, but it is 18 months now since the role has been vacant, isn’t it?
Theresa May: It is. There has been an Acting Chair in place over that period of time, but we are well aware of the need to ensure that there is somebody who is able to take on that role, given the importance of the work that is done by the IPCC, and I was just going to say-
Chair: Sorry, your timetable, yes.
Theresa May: Yes, on the timetable. If it is not on Monday, then it will be very soon thereafter. We are not talking about significant days of delay. I just wanted to make that absolutely clear.
Chair: Well, if you need help with your discussions with the Mayor, this Committee is happy to assist.
Theresa May: I know you are always happy to assist in a number of ways, Chairman.
Chair: Home Secretary, thank you very much for coming in. You are welcome to stay. I know you are very busy. We are now hearing from the MPs and local people from the areas. I know you are very busy. We will send you the transcript.
Theresa May: Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Nick de Bois MP and Mr Andrew Nicholas gave evidence.
Q239 Chair: Mr de Bois, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. Mr Nicholas, thank you also for coming. This part of the inquiry deals with local Members of Parliament and their constituents who were directly affected by the recent disorder that occurred. Clearly, from the very start of these disorders, Mr de Bois, you were involved. You were extremely active on behalf of your constituents and made a number of local statements. When did you first find out about these disorders?
Nick de Bois: Well, first of all, Chairman, and Members of the Committee, thank you very much for inviting us here to have this opportunity. I do appreciate it. I was actually first aware that there could be trouble when I received messages that there was quite a lot of activity on social media sites suggesting Enfield was the target for that day, bearing in mind that this was the Sunday, so it was likely that it was potentially the first for repeat disturbances. I was about 50 miles away, so we drove into Enfield and I went straight to the town centre. I was there from about 5.30 pm.
Q240 Chair: Yes. Mr Nicholas, tell us about your involvement and your personal experiences.
Mr Nicholas: I think, like many people, we were not following the riots particularly and certainly were not aware of the geographical extent of them until quite late on Sunday, when it became apparent that Enfield had been involved. Again, like many residents, I suspect that we did not really realise how far geographically the riots had spread. I certainly anticipated that the peripheral borders between Enfield and Haringey may well be affected, but that it was unlikely to have come any further than that.
Chair: So you were in Enfield, is that right?
Mr Nicholas: I was at home, which is just outside Enfield. My business is in Enfield, and it was probably fairly early evening on Sunday when news reports started coming in. We started to see a Sky newsfeed which showed our own building and subsequently the riot coming past it and stones and rocks being thrown at the police and through our building’s windows.
Chair: So that was the first time you saw this on television.
Mr Nicholas: Indeed.
Chair: It must have been extremely alarming for you.
Mr Nicholas: It was extremely alarming, Chairman, yes.
Chair: What did you do when you saw this on television?
Mr Nicholas: What I did not do was go down there, and I felt that the last thing that was necessary was for anyone to go down and get involved in it. We could see clearly on television that the police were dealing with it as far as they could and I felt the best thing to do was to stay out of the way and see what happened when we went into work on Monday morning.
Chair: What happened when you arrived there?
Mr Nicholas: A scene of total devastation. Every window on the ground floor had been broken and large pieces of pavement and rocks had been thrown through the windows into the rooms. Some of the other-floor windows had been broken also, and an attempt had been made to set fire to the building. At this point, I would very much like to take the opportunity of thanking the policeman. We subsequently saw a film clip where it was very clear that two rioters had started-attempted to start or had started-a fire in one of the ground floor rooms, and the policeman had grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out. I would very much like to take this opportunity publicly to thank that officer, because I think that without that, we could have had a considerably bigger disaster in Enfield.
Chair: Do you know his name?
Mr Nicholas: No idea. I have written to the local police making my position clear and asking them to, if possible, find out who it was and to thank him. I did get a phone call from their PR people saying that they would try and get hold of him, try and find out who it was and pass on our thanks.
Chair: What is your business? How long have you been conducting it from there and how many jobs have you provided?
Mr Nicholas: We have been in Enfield for about 40 years now. It is a family building company, a building business. We employ seven people and our building, our own offices, are at the end of a terrace just off the main high street-in fact, next door is the Civic Centre. All our staff of course were extremely devastated by what happened.
Q241 Lorraine Fullbrook: I would like to ask Mr de Bois something. Were you briefed by the police during the day on the Sunday and were you given any specific intelligence that something was going to happen in your constituency late afternoon, early evening? Were you briefed by the police during that?
Nick de Bois: No, I did not seek a briefing, because I thought the last thing that they would need would be the local MP diverting their attention. What I did do on receiving early reports that there were possibilities of trouble as a result of the social media was to send a message to the Borough Commander, Commander Dave Tucker, who came back to me to say that he and the team were fully aware of the social media and that they had officers on the ground, as he described it, rightly, feeling the temperature. By then people were gathering in Enfield and there was no hint of trouble, but I can only describe it as a sinister air of calm that was over the area. At that point, that was the only time I contacted the police, and I do not regret that decision. I think, frankly, that they had enough to deal with.
Q242 Lorraine Fullbrook: Can I just ask about the transport situation within Enfield? What happened with the transport? Was public transport stopped at any time when the riot started to kick off?
Nick de Bois: Well, I am very glad you asked that. It became apparent-Enfield Town Station is an end of the line and, frankly, people were just getting on the train and coming up. Subsequently, it has emerged that of the arrests that have been made for the Enfield disturbances, 50% were from within the borough of Enfield and 50% were from outside the borough-not just outside the borough, but as far as Twickenham. So that gives you an idea of the travel.
I have made inquiries, because on the evening, as I was near the station at one point, I could not understand why we were letting people come up on the trains. It appears-and I have this only on hearsay, second hand-that the request was made to National Express to hold the trains at around 4.00 pm to 5.00 pm. This did not happen until 9.30 pm, which obviously meant that a considerable number of police were around the station, effectively receiving these people as they were coming in, but just containing at the time. No attempt, no request-and that is the difference-was made to stop some of the bus traffic that was also being used, but I cannot say I witnessed that myself. I only have that on hearsay.
Q243 Nicola Blackwood: Can I add to you, Mr Nicholas, our disbelief about what you have had to go through as a result of these riots? I do not think any of us can really understand how members of your own community can have put you and others like you through this sort of experience, and I wonder if you and Mr de Bois could perhaps give us some sort of sense of what your impression on the ground is. Why do you think this might have happened? What you think might have sparked some of this violence in your community?
Mr Nicholas: There is a gang problem. I chair the governing bodies of two schools, a primary and a secondary school, and we are aware that there is a peripheral gang problem in Enfield. Whether that contributed to it or not, I am not in a position to say. I have no doubt that the social media was certainly a way of moving information around and pinpointing areas in which to target, to attack, although to the contrary, I must say one of my members of staff was aware quite early on during the course of Sunday that something was going to happen, because younger members of her family were being contacted via social media groups to tell them that they had heard that something was going to happen and that they should stay indoors and not go out. So it is quite interesting that the counter to that is that there were a lot of people who did not go out and did not get involved and did not perhaps get caught up in it perhaps, because they were advised to stay out of the way and stay out of trouble.
Nick de Bois: I have a view that the majority of the people early on that came and caused this vandalism and criminal behaviour were initially from outside the area. Although the arrest figures currently show 50:50, my inclination is to believe that, if you like, passers-by, people who came to look at it were then caught up in it. I think they quite deliberately made a conscious decision to do it, which would also explain how a larger element of local people ended up trashing their community.
But I would say, overall, that in the early parts of the evening, there is no doubt in my mind-and I was there and I witnessed these cowardly thugs who had arrived in cars and by train with their faces covered, running up residential side streets as they carried, in some cases, their loot, and in other cases to retrieve weapons. In one case, I stood by as about 15 people walked past me on the high street with their faces all covered, one of them carrying a crowbar and the others on the phone organising their friends, telling them which station to come to.
Chair: Where were the police during all this?
Nick de Bois: Now, this is quite interesting because in one case, the police were probably no more than 30 yards away. I was very close at that point. I was not deliberately close, but these people appeared from round a corner, having parked their cars, and the police at that time made no attempt to arrest the individuals there. Now, at the time, I thought that was strange. Frankly, Chairman, I pinched myself and thought, "Am I really standing in my own constituency high street when there are hooded people walking past me with crowbars and nothing is happening?" Obviously, the policy on the Sunday night was one of containment at this point, and that is what happened. So to try and rationalise this, while I think gangs exploited it, I do not believe that is what drove it initially.
Q244 Nicola Blackwood: At that point, what was the proportion of police to those were out rioting on the streets?
Nick de Bois: Well, of course, visual impressions can be wrong.
Nicola Blackwood: It is difficult, yes.
Nick de Bois: But my guess is in an ever-changing situation-and I have to stress, it changed almost minute to minute-at one point, there were fewer police than necessary to deal with the large crowd of individuals that had gathered in the market square, which is very close to the station. What was happening quite quickly, and I understand it was more public order police were arriving from Tottenham, where they had been, understandably, in north London, based on what had happened before. They arrived quickly and they arrived obviously in the TSG vehicles, which in itself probably and ultimately incited the level of violence to a new level.
Chair: Thank you. I ask colleagues to ask quick questions and you for briefer replies, Mr de Bois, because we have other witnesses.
Q245 Michael Ellis: Mr de Bois, I am interested in exploring a little bit more about what you saw. You witnessed personally some of the rioters as they ran past. You have alluded to mobile phones that they were using and to seeing them get into vehicles.
Nick de Bois: Yes.
Michael Ellis: Could you elaborate on that a little more? I mean, did you see what type of vehicles they were getting in? Did you see anything about the mobile phones they were using? I mean, these were people who clearly were affluent enough to have phones and cars.
Nick de Bois: Yes. They were souped-up GTIs, as I have described them, but I may be slightly wrong in doing-
Michael Ellis: Souped-up GTIs?
Nick de Bois: Well, they were very smart, recently-registered Golfs and that type of vehicle, but I was not standing around looking too closely. But what was most striking and what was deeply offensive-down one of our very nice residential areas, what would happen is that while the police were busy containing an awful lot of people, these groups were breaking away, running up residential high streets, and-this was where it was particularly shocking-they would literally, quite simply push neighbours out of the way, push people who were standing in the street.
One of those people said, "Why have you come to our town to do this?" because they were not from there. They were dressed well. They got into their cars, they were on, as you say, iPhones and all those sorts of gadgets, and then they would drive and park maybe 500 yards somewhere else and go back into the town to do whatever they were doing. In this case, I believe it was an attempt to do some looting. They were affluent. This was no social justice cause. This was pure criminality.
Q246 Steve McCabe: Well, just coming back to that question, you said that people said, "Why have you come to Enfield?" Why do you think they came to Enfield?
Nick de Bois: Well, my opinion is that there were probably two groups of people who came to Enfield. I think that there were people who, from the night before, for all I know, may have looked around and thought, "Why are we doing this to our own area in Tottenham?" and collected at Enfield. I think the communication lines and the relationships between the two boroughs are quite close. I think there was opportunism, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy, Mr McCabe, because during the day, early on in the day, there were a number of target towns being discussed on the social media. Enfield emerged, and suddenly it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, I believe we should just use and understand social media, not try and ban it, but there is no question that it encouraged people to go there, and it was an affluent part of the borough. So I suspect it ticked the boxes from that point of view.
Steve McCabe: So these were affluent people moving to another affluent area to commit pre-planned organised crime?
Nick de Bois: In some cases, yes, most definitely. According to my understanding, there was almost a truce between the various gangs, and it would not surprise me to find in the ultimate arrests, if any gang members have been caught, that there may be gangs from another area that were arrested in Enfield and vice versa. Remember, on our night, it moved and it eventually went to Walthamstow, I think, after us.
Chair: Thank you.
Steve McCabe: Can I just ask Mr Nicholas one quick question?
Chair: Yes, of course.
Q247 Steve McCabe: I just wondered, we obviously know about the terrible damage to businesses and the impact on traders, but what do you think is the current effect on the community in Enfield, Mr Nicholas?
Mr Nicholas: I think initially it terrified the community, because we haven’t ever been subjected to this kind of violence before. I think the scale of the violence terrified people. While it is very easy to second-guess in hindsight, I think the sight, particularly on television, of watching the police appearing simply to attempt to move the rioters on rather than making arrests or getting involved in really taming them, has quite unnerved a number of people.
I don’t think the police came out of it badly and I do not think the reputation of the police has been harmed in any way as far as the Enfield residents would go, but I think that they would very much hope that lessons have been learnt from this, and that should, God forbid, any such thing happen again, a much tougher line would be taken by the police.
Q248 Mr Clappison: That was the question I was going to ask, so I will just ask Mr de Bois if he has anything to add to that, about the effects on the community.
Nick de Bois: Well, I would say that initially, yes, it was absolutely terrifying, and there were some questions asked, but I have not criticised the police particularly here. I think we had, in the end, 220 police officers, 20 effectively from our own borough command and 200 that came up from public disorder. What has happened now is Enfield was open for business very, very quickly. There are a few places with boards still up and I think Mr Nicholas’s is sadly still one of them, but we have had a tremendous spirit grow out of this. If we go to Enfield town now, you will see posters all over the place saying what a great place Enfield is and "Keep smiling, Enfield" and local communities are shopping, back shopping in the streets supporting us. There is a silver lining that has come out of this in our community, and I am immensely proud of that.
As far as the police go, I think, yes, they accept that the policy of containment, while it obviously had an effect-they look back and they think that perhaps some of the breakaway groups should have been dealt with. I think that is fair.
Chair: We understand the police thing, but do you think when you were standing there and watching these people walk across your path with crowbars, somebody ought to have stopped them?
Nick de Bois: Mr Chairman, at that time, I believe there were about 150, maybe 200 people gathering in the market square. I could be wrong about the numbers. I have no hesitation in reflecting the view of my constituents, and I accept this view, because of the nature and geography of that area. I would have happily taken a water cannon to it and dispersed the whole crowd, because I think it just fuelled the mood which led to the stoning of a TSG vehicle, which led to the riots.
Please don’t forget that in Enfield-this is not only about Enfield town-the very next night, we lost, in the largest arson case ever in the history of the Met, the Sony Centre, which was set on fire. That has put under threat 250 jobs, which we are working very hard to keep.
Chair: Mr Nicholas, do you agree that tougher tactics in the beginning would have spared the rest of Enfield from more disorder?
Mr Nicholas: That would certainly be my view, yes. I mean, I think it did upset a lot of people throughout the country, watching on television various parts of the capital where it would appear that nothing was being done to prevent things happening.
Q249 Nicola Blackwood: What were community relations with the police like before the riots and how would you assess them now, after the riots?
Mr Nicholas: I think community relations with the police were perfectly good beforehand, and I don’t think they have suffered. Indeed, I think a lot of people probably have a great deal more respect for the police, because they saw the kind of violence that they were being subjected to, and I think we understand that what they were doing was reacting to the orders that they had been given, which as I understand was this should be treated as a demonstration rather than as a riot.
So I think the community accepts that what the police did was what they were being told to do, but has a great deal of respect, I think, for the police on the ground who went through a most horrendous time, and many of whom were injured. I think that the respect for the police, possibly in many respects, has increased as a result.
Nick de Bois: Could I just say, I think the housing advisory groups, business groups and police council have operated superbly.
Q250 Alun Michael: Mr Nicholas, you said that you are Chair of the governors of a secondary school, and you referred to primary-
Mr Nicholas: Secondary and primary, yes.
Alun Michael: Yes. I am referring to the secondary age group. Obviously, from the evidence that we have heard, there is a much wider age group that was involved in all this, and you have referred to adults being involved in the whole event in quite an organised way. But clearly it would have had an impact on young people in the area, and some might have been drawn in-others, as you suggested, were advised on the basis of common sense to stay away. What sort of follow-up is there and what sort of response has there been in the school community?
Mr Nicholas: Well, of course the schools have only very recently gone back, so it is early days, but I certainly intend to be asking some questions about what information we can glean from the police and from the school community itself as to what kind of involvement there may have been, either directly or peripherally.
Alun Michael: It might be interesting for the Committee when you have had the chance for that discussion, because you both talked about the way in which the community has regrouped, and the school-age group’s reaction would be of particular interest.
Q251 Chair: Now, you talked about the issue of age. Was there any race dimension or gender dimension to the rioters? I mean, you have said, Mr de Bois, that they were covered up, some of them, so you could not see who they were. Was this mindless criminality, as you put it, Mr de Bois, or was a particular group involved? Mr Nicholas.
Mr Nicholas: I think mindless criminality. I don’t think that there was any evidence that we have seen or heard that there was any racial element to it. I think it was simply opportunistic violence and criminality.
Chair: What about the issue of gender, because others have said to me when I visited the areas that there were more women involved. Obviously you have no experience of riots as such, in Enfield, but did you notice that, is that something that struck you?
Mr Nicholas: It is not something that struck me particularly, although I suppose to an extent, one is conscious that a lot of females were involved in it, perhaps more than one would have expected.
Chair: Mr de Bois, Mr Nicholas, thank you.
Q252 Steve McCabe: Can I just ask one question, just following on from that? Mr de Bois, you suggested, if I understood you correctly, that these were fairly affluent organised gang members who were responsible for quite a lot of this. Were these from mixed gangs then-these were black and white groups co-operating together?
Nick de Bois: First of all, I would not say it was all-I could not confirm they were all gang people.
Steve McCabe: Of course.
Nick de Bois: I am not sure they were operating as a gang. There may have been gang members, but they were not-I cannot say for certain they were all that. To be absolutely fair, it never crossed my mind to make an evaluation during the course of the evening. I know I had a few conversations, and I can say that it was both black and white, but as it happens, they were all men. I did talk to some of the people directly, as bizarre as that sounds, and what struck me-and I hope the Committee will note this, because I think it is a theme that is developing-is that absolute self-belief that there would be no price to pay for their action. They took the masks down and told me. One of them advised me to put my BlackBerry away, because they might take it later, and this was a ludicrous situation. It was a very determined arrogance that they would not have to answer for their actions.
Chair: Mr de Bois, Mr Nicholas, thank you very much for coming in. You have, no doubt, access to your local newspapers. The Committee would be very keen to see information that was published the week after the disorders, because obviously we cannot go to every area of the country, but we would very much like to get a feel of what happened. But on behalf of all of us, Mr Nicholas, it must have been a terrible time for you, a family business of 40 years seen going up in flames. You have our sympathies and we hope that you will return to full business as quickly as possible. We are most grateful to both you and Mr de Bois for coming in this morning. Thank you very much.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: David Lammy MP, Mr Niche Mpala Mufwankolo, owner of the Pride of Tottenham pub, and Lynn Radose, resident of River Heights, gave evidence.
Q253 Chair: Mr Lammy, Mrs Radose and Mr Mufwankolo, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. Mr Lammy, for you this is familiar territory although not before the Homes Affairs Select Committee and we are most grateful to your constituents for coming here today. Mr Lammy, it started in Tottenham. Why did this riot, this whole series of events, begin in Tottenham in your view?
David Lammy: Clearly, the death of Mark Duggan is significant in relation to Tottenham. This Committee will understand that the death of any individual, but a young, black man in open air, on a busy Thursday evening in Tottenham, was of tremendous concern. Sadly, Tottenham has a history-Joy Gardner, Cynthia Jarrett, Roger Sylvester-of deaths, in police custody particularly, that have been difficult events and indeed have led to other unrest.
There was a lot of rumour about what happened and you will also be familiar with the confusion about the support for the family, hearing about this on television and other things. On the Friday morning, I put out a statement saying that there was an atmosphere of anxiety and calling for calm, and that is not something an MP does lightly, frankly.
Q254 Chair: Did you also say at the time that, if this was not dealt with there could be disorders, riots?
David Lammy: I didn’t say that publicly because I didn’t think that that was the right-
Chair: But did you feel that that might have happened if it wasn’t dealt with properly?
David Lammy: I talked to the police about tension and about Broadwater Farm and the context of other deaths in police custody that have led to riots. I did not say specifically that there would be riots. I went to Ferry Lane Estate and to Broadwater Farm Estate and I spoke to the youth, just hung out with the youth, and it was clear to me that things were very, very tense indeed.
David Lammy: Just to say, I have found out subsequently that there were text messages going around prior to Saturday night encouraging violence on BBM networks.
Q255 Chair: Thank you. Mr Mufwankolo. My apologies for my pronunciation of your name. Can you tell us where you were when you first knew there were disorders in Tottenham?
Mr Mufwankolo: On that day, I was in my premises as it was a football day. We heard that there was a demonstration near the police station, so I was thinking that it will never reach where we were and as normal after a football day, most of the pubs were just closing, go home for a rest.
Q256 Chair: And your establishment is what? I have obviously been to it, but other members of the Committee haven’t. What is your business on Tottenham High Street?
Mr Mufwankolo: I have a pub, a public house.
Q257 Chair: And you are in the pub?
Mr Mufwankolo: Pardon?
Chair: Were you in the pub at the time of the disorders?
Mr Mufwankolo: I was in the pub because, as I was saying, before the demonstration was close to the police station and at that time, I was at the pub. We were thinking that it was not going to spread down to the north side of Tottenham, so I went home. From home, I found that it was spreading down. I came back to my premises to see how things were. That’s where I found that doors were smashed up and I just preferred then to go inside. I went inside and I saw a lot of youngsters stealing drinks with bags, putting them in bags. When I tried to confront them, that’s when I found out that some of the windows were smashed up and other guys were coming in with a knife. I ran to the first floor in my office to hide myself, then I could watch what was going on in the premises on the monitor.
Q258 Chair: And then what happened? Did they come up after you or did they-when they saw you running upstairs, did they-
Mr Mufwankolo: When they saw me running upstairs, because the place was completely dark, they went up and were trying to get me downstairs. They were smashing any doors they could see that were closed to see if I was there. Then when I saw them start spreading, coming upstairs to the first room, I knew that if I stayed, they would find me and it would be very dangerous for me. Then I went out to a small window of my office to the balcony and from the balcony, I went to the roof, I jumped into the roof and then I could watch, because my roof-I have some windows that you can see inside what is going on, so I could see them all smashing everything and I hid myself in the roof. From there, I just climbed down the drainpipe to come down to safety.
Q259 Chair: It must have been a shocking and terrifying experience for you to be in your own business establishment, to be chased up into a room. You had to presumably lock the door, did you?
Mr Mufwankolo: Yes, it was very terrifying, to be honest. It was something that you couldn’t believe was happening.
Q260 Chair: How much damage was done to your business? Clearly they stole a lot of drinks from your establishment. Was damage done?
Mr Mufwankolo: Everything was damaged. I mean, I cannot even describe the damage because all the efforts I have put into the business just vanished in a minute.
Q261 Chair: How many years have you been running your business?
Mr Mufwankolo: I have been running the business now even not a year yet. It took me two years to build up the business and eight minutes to see it just vanishing.
Q262 Chair: What is your business called? What is the name of your pub?
Mr Mufwankolo: Pride of Tottenham.
Q263 Chair: Mrs Radose, were you there on the night?
Lynn Radose: We were on our way home from our family’s house when we heard on the radio that there were disturbances in Tottenham. We got back home about 10.30.
Q264 Chair: On which night?
Lynn Radose: On Saturday night, at which point the riots were further down the High Road and the disturbances-I think they were calling it on the news at the time. We were just watching the news constantly; seeing the bus on fire, seeing the looting and we had a balcony on the end part of our flat so we could see down the High Road. We could see the flames of the bus, the flames, we started to see the riot getting closer to our building and there weren’t any police anywhere that we could see from our building. The only thing we could see was a police helicopter and the rioters getting closer and closer and closer.
Q265 Chair: What was your building? What was your business?
Lynn Radose: We lived above the carpet shop. We lived in River Heights in the building above the carpet shop. There were 26 flats.
Q266 Chair: How long have you lived there?
Lynn Radose: My husband’s owned the property for eight years.
Q267 Chair: What did they do to the carpet shop when they arrived?
Lynn Radose: From what we saw on TV, they smashed the windows of the carpet shop and then set it on fire. Then some of the other rioters entered into a garage and threw tyres into the carpet shop. I guess that’s what fuelled the flames.
Q268 Chair: So it was on fire. It was on fire before you arrived there, was it?
Lynn Radose: No. We had left the property before it went on fire. We were back in our house. We were watching it on TV. Then, as the riot was getting closer, we got scared for our lives so we left the building before the rioters approached it.
Q269 Chair: How many members of your family left the building with you?
Lynn Radose: My husband and I left and we left with our next door neighbours on either side of us, so six of us left the building at the same time and then we started to call our neighbours and say, "We think you should leave the building. It might be under attack".
Q270 Chair: And what kind of damage was done to the building? I have obviously seen it, but other members of the Committee have not.
Lynn Radose: It is completely destroyed. The carpet shop was set on fire and for some reason, the sprinkler system in the carpet shop wasn’t linked to the sprinkler system in the building, so pretty much instantly or within a very short period of time, the whole building was on fire. The fire alarms weren’t going off. Neighbours were setting off the fire alarms themselves and the whole building was completely destroyed. All 26 properties and the carpet shop.
Q271 Alun Michael: I would be interested to know something. The Acting Commissioner acknowledges there was an issue sometimes when there is the policing of the local community by local police and either other police officers have to be brought in for specific purposes or there is an operation by a different group. Are any issues of local policing and other policing, Mr Lammy, tied up with the events that you saw happening in the estate?
David Lammy: I think the major development of the last 15 years in policing in most developed countries is community policing and where that works well, it works fantastically well. If we move from 1985, when relations with the police would have done that, there has been some progress, but I have come to expect, in my 11 years as the MP for Tottenham, that when operations involve police from outside of the area, things can go badly wrong.
I am concerned that the local police did not know about Operation Trident and I am concerned that the public disorder aspect of this, manned a long way away in Scotland Yard, obviously did not work successfully. When I speak to homeowners and shopkeepers, what they say to me-I can’t illustrate to this Committee, although obviously the Chair has been to Tottenham and has walked the length of Tottenham High Road, from the police station to where the carpet shop is and where the Pride of Tottenham is, is some significant distance.
It takes a good 15 minutes, maybe 20, to walk that length. It is almost half a mile. This is a riot that stretched up one of the longest high roads in the country and went on for over eight hours. Glickman’s is an ironmonger that has been in Tottenham for about 120 years. Its business alarm went off at 4 am. At 4 am, Glickman’s, just past the carpet shop, we have an alarm going off and widespread looting when the violence started eight hours earlier. So this has gone on for a significant period and those at the north of the high road, Pride of Tottenham, those looting this building are saying-where were the police? We could not see them.
Q272 Alun Michael: Can you take us back to the first stages then? You’ve illustrated the amount of time and distance. In the first instance, how quickly were local police engaged with the developing issues?
David Lammy: I was contacted in the evening at around 9 pm, I think, and told that there was a car on fire outside the station. I was contacted again half an hour later and told there was a second fire. I then received text messages from councillors and activists and people of the community telling me there was a bus on fire. From my conversations with the police, it was clear that they felt that the police station was coming under attack. I did not get a sense that the police felt able, with the fire brigade, to put out those fires or contain that violence. I was in constant contact with the police and with the wider community and it went on throughout the night. It was many, many hours before this was contained.
Q273 Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you, Chairman. Mr Lammy, can I ask, between the Thursday evening and Saturday evening, were you briefed at any time by the police that they had intelligence that there was going to be trouble on the Saturday evening?
David Lammy: No.
Q274 Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you. Can I also ask you, Mr Mufwankolo, when you were watching your business being destroyed and feared for your life, were you calling for police help during that time when you were climbing up on to the roof of your business?
Mr Mufwankolo: I did when I came down. When I climbed right down, I went to my neighbour’s place to seek help. My phone’s battery at that time was completely low. I used my neighbour’s phone to call the police and the only thing the 999 people said to me was, "We know what is going on. We cannot do anything at present. You have to hold on." That’s the answer I had from the 999.
Q275 Lorraine Fullbrook: Did you feel that you had been served as a citizen by the police when your business was being destroyed in front of you?
Mr Mufwankolo: To be completely sincere, yes, and I know why-because the violence was very big. I’ve never seen that kind of violence since I have been in this country. The riot people were surrounding where I was, Scotland Green, because I’m just like a small island of Scotland Green, so all of them were there. So the police couldn’t even attend because if they did so, maybe they were going to be attacked by those people.
Q276 Lorraine Fullbrook: Can I ask, Mrs Radose, during your horrendous ordeal, were you calling for police help as well?
Lynn Radose: Yes, and we were told a similar thing-"The police know what’s happening, they can’t do anything about it." It was more when our other neighbours phoned the fire brigade when it was on fire and the fire service told them they can’t get there because there’s no police-and there weren’t any police anywhere, I cannot stress that enough for you. We had a balcony on the third floor and we could see a riot, we could not see one police officer. By the time we left our building on the top floor and came to the ground, there was at least another 100 people that were being pushed towards us and not a single police officer anywhere.
We just felt completely abandoned and then when we got to our family’s house, we phoned the police again and they just kept saying, "Yes, we know what’s happening, we know what’s happening" but there was no help anywhere here or the fire service. The fire brigade didn’t come till like 5 o’clock in the morning or something, at which point the whole building was completely burned out, four hours or whatever after it started.
Q277 Lorraine Fullbrook: What help have you been given since you’ve been burned out of your house?
Lynn Radose: There’s been quite a lot of support. For the first two weeks, every single day we went to the local community centre where there was help from the MP’s office and from the Metropolitan Housing Trust. We’re part of the freeholders, and they had counselling services and that kind of thing there, housing services. There has been a lot of support.
Q278 Mr Winnick: Mr Lammy, you quickly condemned what was happening and you were quoted in the media talking about the mindless violence. I for one certainly admire the way in which you took immediate steps to condemn what was happening, but I wonder if we can go back to the very beginning of what occurred? The police shooting of Mark Duggan. I take it Mr Duggan was one of your constituents?
David Lammy: Yes.
Mr Winnick: How far, Mr Lammy, is it your view, as the Member of Parliament, that the shooting of Mr Duggan was the trigger which set off the rioting and the looting?
David Lammy: I think that this is a sort of perfect storm of a catalogue of errors that could have avoided riots on the scale that we saw, so my starting point is absolutely that a death of this kind-we know from experience in London-can trigger unrest. Now, in the old days, the police would immediately start investigating themselves and there would be a lot of suspicion about where that would end. The good news is that the IPCC stepped in here very early. The bad news is that the family are then left floundering, and also I’m not sure that the communication of the IPCC-there was a need for an active visible press conference, "We’re going to get to the bottom of this quickly".
Chair: So it’s communication, lack of communication.
David Lammy: Yes, that did not happen.
Chair: By the police or the IPCC?
David Lammy: It is for the system to determine where that should lie, but clearly, at that point, community confidence is essential and I’m afraid that did not happen.
Can I just add, though, that despite the concern expressed by me and community members about tension and fears, and subsequently young people have shown me their text messages to go and cause violence in the community-I don’t know whether the police were cognisant or aware of that. I do think that this event was hijacked, by those intent on causing criminal damage, and I want to make a distinction between what happened in Tottenham and Croydon.
Arson and the burning of people’s shops and homes obviously has far greater impact and terror than pure looting and I just want to emphasise why Tottenham is left in the place it is left in. The message it sends for hours on News 24 and Sky News playing out across the world and the vacuum it was allowed to create, with then unrest in Wood Green just a mile up the road and no police there at all-what happened in Wood Green then became the pattern for what happened across the rest of England.
Q279 Mr Winnick: I think that is a general recognition, Mr Lammy. A copycat action took place and certainly after a short time, people were carrying out acts of outright criminality who wouldn’t have known the name of Mr Duggan from any other name. Mr Duggan’s immediate family made it perfectly clear that they wanted no violence of any kind-a peaceful protest, yes, but certainly no violence. Are you-I’m sure you are-investigating, if that is the right word, how it is that the family were not told of Mr Duggan’s death? That is the question I put to the Home Secretary. His girlfriend, or partner, went to the police station and was told to wait outside because they had other queries. She waited some four hours.
David Lammy: On the Saturday morning, I raised with the Commissioner of the IPCC concerns that I was hearing that the family were saying that they had not been liaised with. Clearly, there was confusion about whether that had or had not happened and about who was responsible for making it happen.
Q280 Nicola Blackwood: I’d just like to say, Mr Mufwankolo and Mrs Radose, how much the Committee is appalled by your stories. I think all of us are completely disbelieving that you should have had to go through these terrible experiences at the hands of members of your community. There has been a lot of speculation about why this should have happened and what might be the causes, and I just wonder what you think might have been behind or in the minds of some of those people who were rioting, when they were doing it.
Lynn Radose: I have no idea why people would set our building on fire and wreck people’s businesses. I think ultimately the people to blame are the people who did it-the people who smashed the shops and set off petrol bombs. There is no debate on that whatever, but part of it is that they were allowed to. It started off with a small group of people and it got bigger and bigger and no one controlled it. That’s why they were shifting busloads to Tottenham Hale retail park and smashing that up because they were allowed to. So what was in their mind, I have absolutely no idea, but if no one’s going to stop them-
Q281 Nicola Blackwood: And what do you think community relations with the police in Tottenham were like before the riots and what do you think they’re like now?
Lynn Radose: I have no-
Nicola Blackwood: Maybe from your personal perspective.
Lynn Radose: I would have no engagement with the police whatever in my day-to-day business; I would have no idea. I can imagine it’s worse now than what it was.
Nicola Blackwood: Mr Mufwankolo?
Mr Mufwankolo: Now after the riots we’ve seen, there are sometimes more police on the streets. That was not the case before. That is a small change after the riots-we can see more police officers in uniform than before.
Q282 Nicola Blackwood: Do you trust the police more now than you did before the riots?
Mr Mufwankolo: I’m not talking in a sense of trust; I’m talking in a sense of presence of the police, so the trust comes to what they are doing and not what they are. I’m talking in a sense of we can see them more in the street now.
Q283 Nicola Blackwood: All right. Mr Lammy, what’s your assessment of police relations with the community?
David Lammy: I think that there has been progress since the 1980s and I think for any community to have suffered two riots in the space of a generation, this a path that Britain has never been on. I can think of some cities in America that have been here and it is pretty bleak. I think there are confidence issues around, obviously, the death of Mark Duggan, but there are also profound concerns that we must never let tough, impoverished communities and we must never ever allow gang members and criminals to run the streets. My stress is on the 99% of people in Tottenham who are horrified at the violence, who are horrified at knife crime and gang members, who pay their taxes, who go about their business and who need policing. I’m afraid that has now taken a real confidence kick. It is those people that I am concerned about.
Q284 Chair: Mr Lammy, you were a Minister of the last Government. Should the last Government have done much more?
David Lammy: I think that the advancing on community policing was important. It needed to go further in fact, and I remain concerned at the recruitment of ethnic minority officers in the Met. I don’t just say that on the basis of equality; I say that on the basis of sound pragmatism. We must have officers in Tottenham who were born in Stockwell, Hackney, Peckham, places like that, and clearly progress stalled under a Labour Government.
Q285 Chair: But you are not telling us that there was a race dimension to this at all, are you?
David Lammy: No. I have been very clear. I do not think that this has the character of the race riots we saw in the 1980s, or indeed in the early part of this decade in Bradford and Burnley. I think this does have class dimensions to it, of course, but if you are burning down local-these are the people I’m in politics for and if you’re burning down their businesses and homes, that is an attack on a community. That is not an attack on the police in the political sense.
Q286 Michael Ellis: Mr Lammy, can I take this opportunity to commend you for your leadership of your constituency during what was clearly a very challenging time? It is well recognised that you were a very strong leader at that time. You have referred a couple of times to text messages and other forms of communication like that. I want to ask you a little about what you think can be done, if anything, about the role of social media in situations like this. Perhaps you think that there is very little that can be done, but do you have any views on it?
David Lammy: What I can say is that I sat with a 14-year-old yesterday who showed me some text messages that he had received on 7 August-prior to the Saturday 8 August-inciting violence in Everton and Enfield. This is a 14-year-old who is in a closed network-people share PINs on the Facebook network. Obviously, this is a wonderful 14-year old who showed his mum and I’m told made that available to the police and others. I want to keep his name anonymous for obvious reasons.
I am deeply worried that the police seemed unaware of those networks. I called for the suspension of BlackBerry Messenger. What I meant by that was for the police to get order on our streets, this was on the Monday, there should be some suspension in the evening. I think there are huge implications obviously in relation to social media and we can’t lose all our freedoms because of those intent on causing harm or violence, but clearly, part-
Q287 Chair: Is it still your view that it should have been suspended? The Home Secretary has just told us-obviously, you didn’t hear her evidence-that the Government is firmly against any shutting down of social media in those circumstances.
David Lammy: I called for suspension in the heat of the problems. Clearly, the police were able to get order without suspension, so that is not my view now. No, I think I would have to say that, but it is my view that the police-where violence is occurring-need to be on top of the intelligence and other things, and it is for them to explain how they want to do that.
Q288 Michael Ellis: I think it is fair to say that they became increasingly more on top of it as the situation deteriorated.
David Lammy: But look at the consequences for Tottenham.
Michael Ellis: Yes, of course.
David Lammy: The millions, the £75 million it is going to cost to turn it back, to put it back in order.
Q289 Michael Ellis: Can I just ask a question to Mrs Radose? You said earlier that you were originally in the flat and you evacuated as the situation deteriorated. Were you able to retrieve any of your personal belongings?
Lynn Radose: No, what happened was I started packing a bag of stuff and then, like I said, we had a balcony so we could see the riot and my husband had said, "I think you might get mugged for your bag if you take it" so then we didn’t take anything. All we took was our mobile phones and our passports.
Q290 Mr Clappison: Very briefly, I will follow on from what David Lammy was saying, very much in that spirit. Do you think that in the media it has been sufficiently highlighted that many people have suffered dreadfully-including, amongst others, many people who perhaps don’t have the resources to fall back on that some others have? Do you agree that it is individuals in communities who are victims of this?
David Lammy: I don’t think they have and the terrible thing about this is 300 or 400 people in Tottenham have dominated the news, when everybody else was the victim. Everybody else did not go out and riot. Everybody else has the same policing, and they did not behave like that. These 300 got the focus and that is a great concern. The reputation of Tottenham is driven by the 99% who stayed at home and who were doing good things on behalf of the community, not the 300 who caused this damage who should have been stopped.
Q291 Mr Clappison: Can I ask Mr Mufwankolo, very briefly, what feedback he’s had from his regulars at his pub since this took place? I imagine they’re not too thrilled either.
Mr Mufwankolo: Our people are not really returning to pubs. Pubs in Tottenham are very empty because we still have a sign of burned premises and they’re modest premises. A few people who have returned to pubs are not believing that is happening there because we have some shops that they were going to regularly that are burned; they have to change their daily way of shopping now. It is all a big process. The change in the life, in the regular life of everyday people, they are still in shock-even the regular customers are still in shock.
Q292 Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you. Just a quick question, please, to the two constituents of Mr Lammy. Mr Mufwankolo, can I ask when you expect your business to be up and running again?
Mr Mufwankolo: What I did after this is I tried to put in all my efforts, not just to cry and be desperate. I put my effort to get my business back in order, at least to start opening the doors and to serve some of the customers who can come to assist me. So at present, I put all my effort to have my business back running again.
Q293 Lorraine Fullbrook: Can I ask Mrs Radose, when do you expect to be back in a house of your own with your husband?
Lynn Radose: Our own property? Right now, we don’t know. They are going to rebuild the property that we lived in. The insurance company said that can take up to four years. We’re currently in negotiations to try and move that quicker for us personally. We’re just in limbo.
Q294 Chair: Mr Lammy, on behalf of all the members of the Committee, can I again commend the role that you played in your local community at this very challenging time? I also commend your constituents. Thank you very much for coming in. You have our deep sympathies. None of us would have liked to be in the position that you were in. If you have any further information, Mr Lammy, we would be very keen for you to send it to the Committee. If there is a possibility of us coming to Tottenham later on, we will come as a Committee, but thank you most sincerely for coming in today. Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Shabana Mahmood MP, Amrick Ubhi, Khalid Mahmood MP and Michael Brown, gave evidence.
Q295 Chair: Mr Mahmood, Miss Mahmood, Mr Brown, Mr Ubhi, thank very much for coming in to give evidence to us today. I think you may just need to switch round the nameplates, as they are a little mixed up. As you know, this Committee is conducting an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the disorders between Tottenham and Birmingham in the first part of August. Mr McCabe, a member of our Committee of course, is familiar with the landscape of Birmingham. Some of us are not.
I have been down at your invitation, so we may ask you for descriptions of precisely what you saw. We are interested in what happened on the day. Mr Brown, if I could start with you. You were in the community in Birmingham on the day of the first disorders, which happened, I think, on the Monday in Birmingham. Is that right?
Michael Brown: Correct, but my involvement and I think my attendance here are a consequence of a conference that was held in Birmingham which brought together, I think, in the region of 150 people to consider issues that may have given rise to the riots. To consider how the riots were managed and to consider what it is that communities or what actions could be taken as a consequence to prevent those kinds of events from recurring.
Q296 Chair: Excellent. That would be very helpful to the Committee. Mr Ubhi, were you out there on the night of the disorders?
Amrick Ubhi: I wasn’t, no. On the Monday, we were there till about midnight and as the earlier speaker said, there were all those text messages around, so people were aware that things had kicked off in Birmingham city centre. With regards to Handsworth and Lozells, where we’re based and we were situated, it was all relatively calm up until 12.15 am on Tuesday. So I left the Gurdwara complex at about 12.30-
Chair: Just to help the Committee, the Gurdwara complex is on which road?
Amrick Ubhi: Soho Road, Handsworth, right of the corner of Soho Road and Lozells Road.
Chair: Would you describe that as a central part of Birmingham?
Amrick Ubhi: It has become renowned as the gateway to Soho Road, so that’s what it’s termed by our city colleagues and our civil society down there now. Basically, the Gurdwara is the largest Gurdwara outside India as far as activity goes-not floor space, but activity and it’s involved in a lot of interfaith work, a lot of youth work but that’s through the civic arm that I’m head of.
Q297 Chair: You were there on the Tuesday morning?
Amrick Ubhi: On the Tuesday, we were there until about 12.30, and at about 12.30 I left the complex and everything was sound. We knew there were issues in town but we were given a heads-up that something was brewing and it was likely to overspill.
Q298 Chair: Who gave you this heads-up?
Amrick Ubhi: The heads-up came from a couple of sources. One was a local councillor, Councillor Afzal, who said, "Amrick, we believe that there are going to be issues down Soho Road" and so a lot of the traders were out waiting to see whether they were required because there was very little police around and very little activity of any other sort that was, let’s say, alarming in any way.
So we took stock at about 12.30 and said, "Look, there’s nothing happening now". The front of the Gurdwara has big gates and those gates were shut. The Gurdwara was secure. The complex next door was secure, that is the-
Q299 Chair: Yes, so when did it become insecure?
Amrick Ubhi: I think it stayed secure, the Gurdwara stayed secure. At about 1 am or 1.15 am, as I had literally driven into my front drive, I received a call; I am about seven minutes, eight minutes away from Soho Road. I received a call saying, "Amrick, we’re walking down Soho Road" and that was Raj, one of our colleagues who sits on various forums with us. He said, "We’re just walking down Soho Road and there’s a lot of youth here". I said, "Okay, whereabouts are you on Soho Road?" He said, "We’re outside Badial’s" which is what, 200, 300 yards from where we were. At that point, he kind of went, "Oh my God". I said, "What’s happened?"
Chair: Tell us what you saw rather than what somebody else told you.
Amrick Ubhi: Basically, I was eight minutes away, so I could only-
Q300 Chair: Right, so did you arrive there and see the disorder?
Amrick Ubhi: I got back to the Gurdwara and asked, "Where do we need to be?" and at that point, we stayed at the Gurdwara. We didn’t have any intention of going out to go and find trouble or look at what was going on. So we stayed in the confines of the Gurdwara and said, "Is the campus okay and if there’s anybody that needs help in the immediate vicinity, can we provide help?" I did not make my way down Soho Road. I was on intel, I had been speaking to Inspector Sean Russell and kept in touch with Sean Russell who-he and I were-
Q301 Chair: Yes, so tell us what the effects on the community were and what happened.
Amrick Ubhi: The effects on the community were very unnerving in that a lot of the community had come out-if you think about the demographic make-up of the community along Soho Road, it is predominately Asian, Muslim, Sikh and we’ve got a lot of new arrivals now, there’s a lot of Polish. So all of a sudden, what you had was the whole place turned up on its head because people were standing outside trying to protect their properties and didn’t believe or think that the police were responding quickly enough. The perception, even at that time, right on the coalface, was why is the police protecting the city and the jewellery quarter but not coming out to protect us?
Q302 Chair: So there was damage to properties on that road.
Amrick Ubhi: Yes. Damage to properties had started because there were shutters being pulled out, two cars had been overturned and set alight in the middle of the road, and there were attempts being made at pulling shutters down and getting into shops. So the net effect of that was that more traders were turning up to come and protect their premises.
Q303 Chair: And this was what time on Tuesday?
Amrick Ubhi: This would have been about 1.45 am.
Q304 Chair: Right, thank you. Mr Mahmood, you’re the constituency MP for part of that road. What did you see and what was the reaction of the local community?
Khalid Mahmood: The real serious issue was that people were saying that the police are just standing by and our shops and properties are being looted, nobody’s taking any notice. We’re calling the police, we’re asking them to do something and nothing is happening. This led to a number of people coming back out from the houses to stand outside their properties to protect them. That, to me, was a very, very grave position-where you’ve got people ready to defend their properties against these people. That could have broken out into a huge riot in itself and huge damage to people.
Q305 Chair: Did you feel the police ought to have been doing this rather than the public?
Khalid Mahmood: Yes.
Q306 Chair: So where were the police?
Khalid Mahmood: In terms of Soho Road, they were standing at the top end protecting a police station. To my amazement, traffic was still going up and down. There had been no attempt to seal the road off to stop further people coming in. There was no semblance of any order at all. People were saying we had some jewellers who were broken into. We had an electronic shop that was broken into with electronic equipment, TVs and the like; we had a phone shop that was broken into. Two of the banks on the road were broken into and they tried to make away with the cash till, which you had the opportunity of coming and seeing. They were trying to drag it off, but luckily the manager had taken the money out of that cash machine.
Q307 Chair: This is a cash machine physically being removed out of the bank.
Khalid Mahmood: Physical cash machine, inside the bank.
Chair: Yes. I have obviously seen it, but the Committee haven’t.
Khalid Mahmood: That’s right, yes, sir. They managed to break into the bank and tried to take this portable machine away or tried to open it and luckily, they didn’t succeed, but there was no money in it in the first place because the manager had taken the money and put it in a sack.
Q308 Chair: Yes, very helpful. Thank you.
Miss Mahmood, again, a large part of this area was in your constituency. When did you first hear about it and what did you see when you arrived down there?
Shabana Mahmood: I had a conversation with Chris Sims, who’s the Chief Constable at West Midlands Police, early on the Monday morning-just talking about the day and the police getting ready because they were concerned obviously that the violence was going to spread to Birmingham as well. Then I started getting calls in the very early evening, about 5.30 pm or 6 pm, that things had kicked off in the city centre, all of which is in my constituency. Those calls kept coming and obviously there was much more trouble. I was on my way into the Mailbox, which is in the city centre, and it’s where the BBC are based. They’d asked me to come in and do a couple of interviews. I was driving in with my dad and the police were, at that point, cutting off access into the main city centre area. I could see lots of groups of young people and what shocked me was that some of them are very young-they couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15years old, carrying bags of stuff that they had obviously just taken from shops.
Q309 Chair: What kinds of things did you see in their bags?
Shabana Mahmood: Mobile phones, and one girl was showing another one of her mates a range of phones that she had in this bag, whipping them out and handing them out to her friends as they were crossing the crossing in front of us.
Q310 Chair: Did they have hoods on, these people, or were they visible to you? You could identify them?
Shabana Mahmood: Some of them had hoods. Others were visible. It was all very open. I was shocked at the girls who were laughing and for whom it-the impression I had was that they that had just been and had a great day out almost, and it was really shocking. They were also just streaming across the street and obviously the traffic heading down that street didn’t realise it was all closed off. Only at the top, there was a very-
Q311 Chair: Were any police there?
Shabana Mahmood: Only at the top to prevent further cars from going into the main city centre. Where I saw the youngsters, there weren’t any police officers at that point.
Q312 Lorraine Fullbrook: Can I ask just one of Mr Mahmood? At any time on the Monday, or even on the Tuesday morning, were you officially briefed by the police about any intelligence they had that something was going to happen in either area?
Khalid Mahmood: No. We made contact with the police on the Tuesday and had a meeting with the traders. Police attended that meeting, but I certainly had no briefing before that and we then made further contacts with local area commanders and officers to try and look at the situation, to deal with this-
Lorraine Fullbrook: But that was after they had had meetings.
Khalid Mahmood: Afterwards, yes.
Lorraine Fullbrook: But you hadn’t been officially briefed beforehand to say they’d had any intelligence to say this was going to kick off?
Khalid Mahmood: No. I didn’t.
Shabana Mahmood: As I slightly referenced in one of my earlier answers, I did have a conversation on Monday morning, but that was-
Lorraine Fullbrook: But that was indicated by you?
Shabana Mahmood: Yes, it was and it was picking up just an overall fear that if the trouble was going to spread, Birmingham would be a natural place for it to move to after London.
Q313 Steve McCabe: I think I want to direct this more to Mr Ubhi and Mr Brown. Obviously, the trouble started in the city centre and we have heard about that. When it flared up in Handsworth, was it the same people who were causing trouble in the city centre who then moved to Handsworth? Were these people from Handsworth or were they from somewhere else? Do you know? Did you have enough information about who was causing the trouble in Handsworth?
Michael Brown: From what I have heard, there was quite a high degree of mobility across the city so that people were involved-
Steve McCabe: But you do not personally know?
Michael Brown: No, I don’t know. I have not spoken to those people, but that is what we understood.
Amrick Ubhi: On the night, the concern was that nobody had been stopped coming out of the city into Handsworth. Just for the benefit of the Committee, if we see this cup here as the centre of Birmingham, you would have to go through this block here, which is the jewellery quarter, to get to Handsworth and Lozells at this end. The argument that the traders were putting up right on the spur of the moment when it was kicking off was, "Why are the police protecting that asset but ignoring us? Do we not count as citizens?"
The perception was that they had been contained here or, rather, if not contained, dispersed from here and clearly made their way along Constitution Hill. That’s what the text messages were saying as well-through the jewellery quarter and into Handsworth. So, yes, there was some mobility, using Michael’s words-what was in the city was migrating to and ended up in Handsworth and Lozells.
Khalid Mahmood: There are two elements there. I think Amrick is right to a large extent, but also there was a group of people round the Murdock Road and Albert Road area where we had had history previously, and there was a dispersal order in place. We were working-the local council had been working on that area-particularly with some young people that were there. I think they then joined that area as well. There was a combination of people coming from the city centre and some people internally from within Handsworth moving across.
Shabana Mahmood: It is almost the same as Khalid, in the sense that people were clearly streaming from the city centre towards, as Amrick says, Constitution Hill and then over Hockley Flyover and into Soho Road. But then there were also people from within the Winson Green and Dudley Road area, also coalescing and moving either on to the Dudley Road, which is another high street with lots of shops, and also the Soho Road, which is the bigger sort of business area.
Q314 Steve McCabe: The reason why I ask that is that I think we have heard from the MP from Tottenham and his constituents that it was people from Tottenham who attacked and damaged their own community. I think we have heard from the MP for Enfield and his constituent that it was people from outside Enfield who were organised and went in to attack the community. I was curious to know what the perception in Handsworth and Lozells is-if it was coming from within, if that is the right term, or if it was externally driven.
Shabana Mahmood: Certainly the problem in the city centre-there might have been a small number of people who were from outside Birmingham-but it was internal, if you like, to Birmingham and then particularly with the trouble we saw on the Dudley Road, where obviously we had the incident with the car and the three deaths. That was internal to Birmingham or internal to that area as well; it wasn’t external individuals.
Q315 Alun Michael: I ask this question first to Mr Brown and Mr Ubhi, but I would be interested in the comments from the Members of Parliament as well. One of the issues that comes up in some areas is the relationship between local policing-community policing, policing by the people who are regularly policing that area-and when others have to be brought in, either for a specific operation or because support is needed. Was this an issue in relation to events in Birmingham, which we are asking you about today? What are the relations like with the police?
Michael Brown: I’m not aware that was an issue. Certainly the feedback that we had at the conference was-to a degree it was contradictory because on the one hand people are saying the relationships with the police were good and, on the other hand, they were questioning whether they could trust the police to do the job they were paid to do. There is a bit of a dichotomy there, but I think that the relationship is with the police, I think that’s what they see the relationship is with the police. I don’t think that there is a differentiation between those who are local. There are some who are local who will have better personal relationships within the community.
Alun Michael: But it is not a big issue in your respect. Mr Ubhi?
Amrick Ubhi: From my experience, in any walk of life you do not build relationships with institutions; the relationships are with individuals. Personally, and as a community group, we have good working relationships with certain individuals on a local basis and that has served and worked well. Leading up to the event, we were already talking to Chief Inspector Sean Russell, who was in the throes of putting some local reference groups together. We had a meeting that Stephen Hughes, the Chief Exec of Birmingham City Council, chaired and he has a local Handsworth and Lozells reference group, which meets regularly. He has all his top officers there and then local people to come in and raise some of their issues.
One of the issues that was fed back by Superintendent Matt Ward at the last but one meeting, if memory serves me right, was that there are some fault lines, as we call them. There is a lot of work going on at the moment because there have been some issues with some festivals that were pending or coming up, a carnival coming up. There was some work commissioned to say, "Well, go out and find out what’s going on". Superintendent Ward came back and said, "There are potential fault lines. There is some tension but nothing major that is alarming."
Just having that dialogue, and on the back of that Sean Russell had been tasked with putting some groups together to have some dialogue and see where things went, so we were already talking and having that conversation. When you talk about relationships, even from that point, nearly two, three months before the disturbances, right through the disturbances and even today, that dialogue with Sean still carries on. It is that that is helping us inform, quell or dismiss a lot of the text rumours, the rumour-mongering that’s been going on, that has helped us.
From a policing point of view, I think since the last incidents that we have seen in Handsworth and Lozells-I’ve seen them all personally and am sick to the back teeth of them-we do not seem to have learned those lessons. It is about community policing and putting local bobbies into the local area so that they can build those relationships, so that when something is bubbling it has got to a source, prior to it becoming contagious. Does that make sense? Dealing with it at source is a lot easier than trying to band-aid it after it becomes cancerous.
Chair: Would you like to comment, Mr Mahmood?
Khalid Mahmood: There are a number of issues with the police and local policing. I think over the last ten years we have had a fairly good relationship; we have had increasing policing but since last year that issue has changed considerably. The Chief Constable brought in a new programme called Paragon that meant a quite significant reduction in local policing. In that period over the last year, crime has gone up in the area; there were issues I alluded to earlier on with dispersal orders now put in place because of the rise of the sort of tension that was going on. So over the last year there has been a difference in the way policing has taken place, and far thinner policing. The community areas all have far fewer community support officers, who have done a fantastic job in the area previously.
This is not a political point, but the reality of what has happened on the ground. There are fewer officers there to deal with the issue and so, therefore, crime has risen.
Shabana Mahmood: I want to put the issues and relationship in the context of what happened in Winson Green, which is where the three young men lost their lives. Up to the early hours of Wednesday morning, a lot of people had been feeding into me that they felt they had to police their area on their own, and there were a lot of young people about. You have got to remember this was Ramadan so the late evening prayers were taking place and finishing at 11.30 pm, 11.45 pm, and the pre-dawn breakfast was about 3.30 am.
There were a lot of people up and about and offering to help their friends who owned businesses on Dudley Road and Soho Road-just stand outside and make sure that those premises weren’t looted. All of that was happening and there was a sense that they had been forgotten about or that they had been let down. Then obviously after the incident with the three young men being struck with a car, that spilled over and then there was real tension in the air, a real disappointment with the police response.
On the Wednesday afternoon, I chaired a meeting just to facilitate a dialogue between the police and the community. It was an open meeting and we had hundreds of people turn up, a huge crowd gathered outside and there was real potential for a fight then. There was a real disappointment again with the police, and Tariq Jahan in the end had to calm himself and address the crowd outside, telling everybody to calm down and to go home. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The follow-up meeting from that is tomorrow and again the idea is to try and facilitate this dialogue to get the relationship between the police and the community of Winson Green back to where it should be.
Q316 Michael Ellis: Mr Ubhi, did you also witness, observe and anticipate a necessity for members of the community to protect particularly important buildings to them, for example the Gurdwara? Did you see that happening in your community? Do you feel that there is disappointment in the police locally for not being able to respond when they were needed?
Amrick Ubhi: I think it is important to understand it from a cultural perspective before I answer your question, if I may.
Chair: If you have a brief answer, that would be very helpful.
Amrick Ubhi: Yes.
Michael Ellis: Forgive me, but this is the first opportunity I have had to ask a question to this panel. May I respectfully suggest you answer the way you see fit?
Amrick Ubhi: I think culturally, as Sikhs, we are brought up to be law-abiding, to work with the police and to work within the confines of the law. We are also brought up not to be dependent but to be independent. It is not the case of us sitting there waiting for an attack or something to happen before we react; it’s about being pro-active, as I’ve just said, with neighbourhood police and neighbourhood policing and local policing. That is what happened; people were being pro-active. Whether anything kicked off on that night or not, they would have still been out, they would have still had cups of tea and exchanged niceties and somebody would have brought some food along and dealt with it. The perception about the police is still the same-they were too busy in the city and in the jewellery quarter and neglected the Asian businesses, which were predominantly on Soho Road.
Q317 Michael Ellis: Do you feel that community elders and leaders played an important part in keeping younger members of the community sufficiently under control?
Amrick Ubhi: I think there was probably scope to have done more but, based on the heat of the moment, the lid that was kept on. I applaud every community for what they did that night to keep the lid on things.
Q318 Michael Ellis: Just very briefly, you have mentioned a couple of times text messages and the like and the role that they played. Do you or anybody else on the panel have any views on whether anything could be done, especially during the heat of situations like this, to control social media?
Amrick Ubhi: I shall speak as an individual, not on behalf of anybody here. In the heat of the moment, if I could have flicked the main electricity switch for the whole country, I would have done-because what that text messaging, BlackBerry and everything else was doing was nothing short of inciting. It was inflaming situations. It was turning communities against communities, turning people against the police for no reason other than, "Let’s have a nice laugh."
Shabana Mahmood: I would add, though, that from my own personal experience of what was going on and everything that I saw myself, the social media side of it was as much a force for good as it was for whipping things up and creating trouble. For example, there was a clean-up operation organised purely on Twitter on the Tuesday morning and lots of people went into the city centre and the Soho Road to help clean up. Also, after the three deaths occurred, there were so many young men, young Asian Muslim men, in particular, who wanted to go out and-passions were running so high they either wanted to march or they wanted to show how angry and upset they were. Then it was other young Muslim men texting them or Twittering them to say, "Calm down, brother. It’s Ramadan; we have to appreciate the spirit of the month we’re in, it’s a holy month". In that respect, it was a force for good as well.
Q319 Chair: Mr Brown, you mentioned a conference that you chaired and you were keen to tell the Committee about it. Very briefly, I am afraid-we have other witnesses coming in-what were the headline issues?
Michael Brown: I will be brief. There were a number of issues, which probably fall under four general headings. I am trying to get them in order. One was about the factor that may have conspired to create an atmosphere in which the riots, or any kind of rebellion, could take place. A lot of that relates to social factors, whether it be factors around people not being able to get jobs, around loss of service, around loss of hope, around seeing what’s going on elsewhere through the media, through politicians, through people deemed to be leaders and a sense of hopelessness.
There is another set of discussions, issues, which related to how the riots were dealt with. We have talked about the relationships already-questions about the state of readiness and whether the police were ready, and there has been quite a bit of discussion around that. Whether, in fact, it was a case of whether the numbers that they had out on the street were sufficient to deal with the volume and breadth of incidents and whether there were sufficient deterrents, visible deterrents, either in terms of police numbers or visibly seeing people being detained, being arrested-these were some of the questions-and whether in fact there was a police strategy. Not just about having police there, on the face of it not doing anything, but what was the strategy behind that?
Q320 Chair: Obviously, you have a lengthy report there. It would be helpful if you could write to the Committee, or we could have your conclusions. You could submit it as formal evidence. I think you may have done so. That will be very helpful for our deliberations.
One issue which is always apparent in Birmingham, and again I am sorry to ask you to be brief but we have one more set of witnesses to come in, is the issue of race in Birmingham that was raised when I was there. Was that a factor in these riots? I have asked this of every single witness. I just want to be very clear from you all that this was not an issue or it was an issue.
Michael Brown: No, it certainly isn’t. Nearly everybody I spoke to about it is denouncing that and saying, "No, it wasn’t". In fact, it has been portrayed as such and the portrayal of it as a race issue has the potential to cause tremendous damage by, I think the phrase is, demonising particular communities-the African Caribbean communities. It is not helpful, not just to the community but also to community relations.
Amrick Ubhi: No, I do not think there were race issues. However, the perception which seems to come through, as Michael just said, is that this has been drummed up to be something that it really isn’t. We firmly believe that this was purely a criminal matter and that was what the reference group believes that came together to help quell some of those concerns that came about.
Chair: Mr Mahmood, Ms Mahmood, Mr Brown, Mr Ubhi, thank you very much for coming here today. I am sorry; we could have gone on for much longer, but I am afraid that we have other witnesses. What you have had to say to us has been very helpful.
On behalf of the Committee, can I thank the two MPs for the leadership that you have shown in your communities? To you, Mr Brown and Mr Ubhi, would you pass on the condolences of this Committee to all those who have been affected? There were people who died in Birmingham as a result of these riots. Our sympathies are with the families of those who have died and, of course, with those who suffered so much because of the devastation to their businesses. We may well return to Birmingham before the end of our inquiry. Thank you very much for coming.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Jane Ellison MP and the Reverend Paul Perkin, gave evidence.
Q321 Chair: Ms Ellison and the Reverend Perkin, thank you very much for coming. I apologise for delaying you; I know how busy you both must be, but the Committee is exercised by this very important issue.
Reverend Perkin, were you there on the night of the disturbance? Were there things that you saw that you think should be brought to the attention of members of this Committee?
Reverend Perkin: I was there throughout. The area was a very, very narrow localised area, almost conterminous with my parish, only a few hundred yards in every direction. It was a very protracted period of time. From my perspective it was 12 hours, from 3.00 pm in the afternoon to 3.00 am the next morning. I was there throughout.
Q322 Chair: What did you see that would be helpful to this Committee?
Reverend Perkin: I was with my son much of the time, coming and going in different parts, some of the time to see that my church was protected; it is on the edge of the area of rioting. But it appeared to me that there were four phases. Phase one was 3.00 pm to 8.00 pm in the evening, when we had been told that the rioters were coming. Everybody knew in the area. A rumour, a message had gone and spread like wildfire that looters were coming and shops were to close early.
Q323 Chair: This was which day?
Reverend Perkin: This is Monday. Around 4.00 pm, shops were shutting early. I was around; I was watching what was happening. Everything was very, very quiet because the shops had shut. It was very deserted, apart from a couple of police-I don’t know whether they were regular police or community officers-who were standing around in one or two localised positions. At that stage I went home for a brief time and came back again later when we heard that mobs had gathered.
Phase two was 8.00 pm for the next couple of hours. This was such a long period of time, 12 hours, that I may be wrong an hour or two in almost any direction. But during phase two, which you could call open season for looting, my son and I stood and watched as the first shops were being smashed and so on. I can remember my first feeling; it felt surreal. People use words like that afterwards-it was like being on a different planet almost, not just in a different country.
Q324 Chair: Were police there at that stage?
Reverend Perkin: No. Phase two, some police had arrived but they were right outside the area making barriers to traffic coming into the area. For example, when I briefly went home and came back I couldn’t get through a barrier, but they didn’t seem to realise that there were about ten entrances into the area, so I just had to walk a few yards extra to get in.
Phase two, the local police were there and in significant numbers-I don’t know, 10, 20, 30, 50 police; it was very difficult to count. But in the area where looting was taking place, not a single police presence at all. I can remember thinking, "The police will be here in five minutes". Then five minutes turned to 10 and then to 15 and then to 30 and to an hour and there were no police anywhere.
Q325 Chair: Not even police standing by and watching? There was just no police?
Reverend Perkin: Not to our view. They would have been a few more a hundred yards away. Phase three, the riot police arrived and they set up two lines in St John’s Road in the middle of the Clapham Junction area and they stood and observed. They were only a few hundred yards away. We were conversing with the rioters throughout-my son and I were trying at least. We weren’t confronting but we were trying to talk. We thought if we’re talking to people at least that stops them, distracts them.
Q326 Chair: What were they saying to you, Reverend?
Reverend Perkin: The atmosphere was, I think, very unique at Clapham Junction. It was more like a carnival atmosphere. It was a party atmosphere-a very, very hyped up, intense celebration that, "We can do this and we can get away with it. Look, the police are 50 yards away and they’re just watching."
We are now into the third phase, the riot police were there forming two lines, which, incidentally, were not, from my perspective, protecting anything. It was like an army in battle that were not defending anything. They weren’t sure which way the front was, the battle front.
Q327 Chair: Did you want to go up to them and say, "Why aren’t you doing anything"?
Reverend Perkin: Absolutely. In fact, we did. We had lots of conversations, you are talking about a very long period of time, an hour, two hours, while all this was going on. We had lots of chats with the looters. The most we said was, "Why don’t you go home?" But we also went and talked to the riot police a great deal as well. It was a matter of, "Can I introduce you to each other?" "Hello?"
Q328 Chair: Yes. What was their response?
Reverend Perkin: Their response was, "We’ve just been told to stand here."
Q329 Chair: They actually said that to you? They used the words, "We’ve just been told to stand here"?
Reverend Perkin: For the young riot police-for whom I have great admiration, incidentally; these were mainly very young people-it was their third night out. They didn’t know the area; they had come from other parts of London. They were exercising restraint and patience. I have no complaint of them. There was a colossal lack of co-ordination and leadership, from what I observed.
Jane Ellison: Chairman, thank you very much for asking us to come and give evidence; we are very pleased to have the opportunity. Just to corroborate what Paul said there, I had a series of conversations and exchanges of messages with the Acting Borough Commander during the evening and, around the time Paul is describing, he confirmed to me that he had instructed his officers to withdraw and observe and gather evidence because he considered them outnumbered. He said his priority was "to preserve life". That was the phrase he used. In his view, he could not guarantee the safety of his officers because of the numbers of rioters being disproportionate to the number of officers, public order trained officers. He had ordered them to withdraw and gather evidence. I think that very much ties in with Paul’s observations on the ground. I was in a slightly different part of the area. If you would like me to describe-
Chair: Yes, in one moment. I am just bringing in Lorraine Fullbrook first.
Q330 Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you . I would like to ask Ms Ellison , were you briefed by the police at any time on the Monday and given intelligence that there was going to be trouble in the Battersea constituency, specifically Clapham? You were?
Jane Ellison: Yes. I was called to what they call a gold group stakeholder meeting that started at 5.00 pm in Battersea Police Station on Battersea Bridge Road. It finished around 6.15 pm, 6.20 pm on Monday, 8 August. That was the representatives. I was the only MP there; the other two MPs in Wandsworth were represented, senior representatives of the council and so on.
The meeting started with a briefing about what had happened in Lambeth and neighbouring boroughs and what happened in north London the night before, and then obviously we were interested in what might or might not be occurring. There had been some localised trouble in Tooting the night before; we were given a report on that. The Acting Borough Commander, who was chairing the meeting, said that they had intelligence to suggest there were several possible targets for trouble that night, Monday night, in Wandsworth-the Southside Shopping Centre towards the town centre, Putney High Street, Putney Exchange, Tooting High Street, where there had been some trouble the night before, and Clapham Junction. They also said there was some specific intelligence about JD Sports in Clapham Junction.
Q331 Mr Clappison: I am intrigued by the Reverend Perkin’s presentation. Congratulations to both of you for the role you played-being on the spot and being present. When you were speaking to the rioters, did you tell them you were a member of the clergy? How did they respond, if you did?
Reverend Perkin: No. No, I didn’t.
Q332 Mr Clappison: Your church has a wonderful range of services that you provide to people, helping people in need. Did you get the impression that many of the people were local people? What was their attitude towards the community?
Reverend Perkin: Many of the rioters, as far as we could see, had come from outside the immediate community. There were some locals, which has come out in some stories, some opposite stories of those who didn’t riot. One of the young boys called James, who was being mentored that afternoon by our Future Skills ministry that is working with excluded youth in the area, was receiving pressure that evening to go out with his friends and, as a result of that mentoring session, resisted the pressure to do so. There clearly were people from within the area, but there were a lot of people coming from outside the area.
As I said earlier, there were four phases. The fourth phase was when the armoured vehicles arrived after all the action was over-really, about 1 am.
Q333 Alun Michael: One of the questions that we have been probing with a number of areas where things happened-there seem to have been different circumstances in different places-is the connection between the local police who were there all the time and when police come in from outside, or have to be brought in as reinforcements. Was that an issue at all in relation to events in your area?
Reverend Perkin: Yes, it appeared to be. Can I just preface this answer by saying we love the police and-
Chair: We all love the police. We know this is not criticism.
Reverend Perkin: I say regularly to the 20, 25 employees on my staff that the police are our friends and we have worked with them on many projects, both overt and covert ones. But having said that, a lot of the riot police came from outside the area and they themselves were disoriented. They did not know the area. For example, it appeared to them that they were protecting Debenhams, the shop that received multiple looting. Those of us in the area know that there are six entrances into Debenhams and they were protecting two of them. In fact, on one other absurd occasion I was pointing out to them that all the looters were going in round the back and it was my saying that to them that moved them-the only time that they moved in a period of a couple of hours.
Q334 Alun Michael: Just a moment-your main concern was that it was not a question of police being brought from outside to supplement local police, but almost as a completely separate unit. Is that what you mean?
Reverend Perkin: I would not know the answer to that. Those that I spoke to said that they came from other parts of London-in fact, they had been in other parts of London the previous three nights.
Jane Ellison: If I could perhaps add to that. Of course, we had the gold group briefing on Monday and a slightly more lively briefing on the Tuesday afterwards. Certainly the Borough Commander already had-he told us on the Monday-a lot of police off borough that had been called up to north London, whatever. My understanding is that during the course of the evening he had other police, public order trained police in particular-I think exclusively public order trained police-called off down to places like Croydon. From piecing together what different people told me and from speaking to the fire brigade, much of that was to protect, to allow the fire brigade to go into the fires in other parts of London. I think our borough was losing public order trained police during the course of the evening and we only started to gain after midnight.
I last spoke to the Borough Commander at about 12.40 am on Tuesday morning and he confirmed at that stage, after many phone calls and much imploring for back-up, that he had people on the way-I think the armoured vehicles to which the Reverend Perkin refers. At one point, early mid-evening, he said that we were down to seven or eight public order trained police in the immediate area from our own. Then we were looking to supplement them in because we already had people off borough and then, I think, others were called off, drawn in by the need to protect fire engines and so on, elsewhere in south London.
Q335 Alun Michael: That is very clear. Can I ask just one other thing, in view of your background, Reverend Perkin, because I see from the notes that you were involved in working in Wandsworth Prison and also with the rehabilitation of offenders? We have had a lot of talk this week about the extent to which the riots in different parts of the country were or were not populated by people with, perhaps, records. Do you have any impression about the situation in your area? I know that is impressionistic and we are trying to get to the bottom of this in terms of firm figures and probably will not have those first-hand, but I would be interested in your impressions.
Reverend Perkin: I cannot comment on past records; there wasn’t time for that kind of conversation. But in Clapham Junction, quite differently from what I saw on the television on subsequent nights, the rioters were almost entirely teenagers, mostly boys, and I said entirely black teenagers. My son said he saw one or two white faces, but I didn’t. You can say it was overwhelmingly black teenage youth.
Q336 Michael Ellis: A couple of questions, Reverend Perkin. You spoke of the incidents around Debenhams. Did you speak to any senior officers? Were there any senior officers there? Did there appear to be any? You said you approached young officers that were stationary for a long period of time; was there any senior officer in the region?
Reverend Perkin: There may well have been. There were one or two who appeared to be leading but the vast majority seemed to be very young. I have reached the stage where the police look as if they are 15 years old.
Q337 Michael Ellis: As to the type of rioters, following on from Mr Michael’s question, you have spoken of their age, but can you make any reference to their affluence? Did you see any of them arriving in cars or did you notice anything about the clothes they were wearing?
Jane Ellison: Perhaps I could answer. I think we both saw that. I have a very specific example where at 10.15 pm a large white Transit van parked opposite my house. I live very close to Clapham Junction, 500 or so yards away. Three youths were in the cab and seven or eight piled out of the back. They all just streamed-they were all wearing balaclavas or masked up, piled up to Clapham Junction, came back half an hour or so later loaded up with loot and filled the van up and drove off. I had gone out-already gone out while they were away, photographed the van, took the reg number and at 10.46 pm I called the borough control room- I had the direct line into the control room-and said, "Look, I’ve got this reg number, they’ve just driven off with absolutely loads of stolen goods", and they just said, "Look, we’re overrun, there’s absolutely no chance of anyone being able to follow that up."
Q338 Michael Ellis: Can you say whether that has been followed up by the police subsequently?
Jane Ellison: I know they have had about 600 different pieces of information from the local community. I am assuming, because they said they were following up all registration numbers given, that they have done. I have not been advised if my particular piece of evidence has been followed up.
Q339 Michael Ellis: Congratulations on your role. Can I just ask you in respect of that, how were you first informed and when were you first informed that there was a riot or a riot pending in your area?
Jane Ellison: I got home from the police briefing, which finished about 6.16 pm, 6.20 pm, having been told there was no specific intelligence that something was going to kick off in any one of the four possible areas, although there was a bit of evidence about one or two of the shops at Clapham Junction. It sounds like it probably already was kicking up, so I’m really struggling to square that timeline and I am very certain of that timeline, both the beginning and end of the meeting.
The next time I knew it was definitely kicking off was when I walked up to Clapham Junction Station, to the north exit, and at 8.15 pm I spoke to four British Transport police. They were the only police I met between my house and the station and they said there were two big groups of youths massing on either side of the station, "It’s all looking pretty ugly round there, it’s going to kick off", and I said, "Is there any chance of a uniformed presence on Falcon Road?", which is the main road leading between Clapham Junction North towards the river. They went through on their radios and said, "No chance". I said, "Well, I’ll make myself useful" and I went and spent the next hour going to all the remaining open shops, restaurants and takeaways; one of those restaurants-I measured it this morning on my way in-is 250 yards from Clapham Junction. It was still open with people dining inside there. I said, "It’s not looking good out there" and I was particularly worried about the takeaway drivers and the delivery drivers. I went into all the takeaways and said, "You know, I really think this is not the night to send your guys to any address".
Q340 Michael Ellis: What did they say?
Jane Ellison: Most of them were grateful, but that was the first they heard about it. Most of them were pleased to have the information.
Q341 Michael Ellis: Did they close down?
Jane Ellison: I went out again later with my partner John around 10.00 pm, by which point Sainsbury’s was just surrounded by people with armfuls of trainers and clothes. A chap went past me on a Boris bike with a telly balanced on the front. It was just surreal; I think that absolutely is the word for it. Most of the shops had got their shutters down or were closed and the restaurant was closed down and so I think most of them, not all of them, quite understood, I think, what was going on.
The interesting thing for me was that when I went round all those shops-it was 8.30 pm-Tesco’s was already shut. All the little shops were still open and all the little takeaways and restaurants. The only significant large shop in that road, just below Clapham Junction, was shut and they normally shut at 11.00 pm. Either they had taken a head office decision or they had had intelligence that the smaller shops were not privy to.
Reverend Perkin: Our understanding agrees with that. We knew it was happening from about 3.00 pm to 4.00 pm and it started around 8.00 pm to 9.00 pm. As far as your question earlier about groups coming in is concerned, it was clear that there were opportunistic but organised crime groups who were coming in vans, called on the phone to come and pick up looted material. Because it was open season for looting, over a long period of time youths were looting from the shops, taking it to the edge of the area, mainly to the gardens surrounding my church, depositing their loot there and going back for more. Some were taking multiple trips, three, four trips, bringing it back over an hour or two and meanwhile phoning for vans to come and pick them up.
Jane Ellison: Numerous residents have said exactly that. There are very residential roads immediately behind Debenhams and all of that area; it is a very residential area and they all say exactly the same-vans and cars-
Reverend Perkin: Stockpiling.
Jane Ellison: There were adults saying to kids, "Go in and get some jewellery in that house", apparently, then coming back and saying, "Now go in and get this". It was just-it was organised and they just had hours and hours to do it.
Q342 Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you. I just want to go back to Ms Ellison’s statement about talking to four British Transport police at Clapham Junction. It is a major rail network station; presumably the British Transport Police had stopped any trains coming in.
Jane Ellison: No, the station was open and functioning at that time because my partner got off the train and went and bought something in the station shops and left via the station car park at 7.45 pm.
Q343 Lorraine Fullbrook: Had Debenhams started to be looted at that time?
Reverend Perkin: At 7.45 pm? Not quite.
Jane Ellison: Not quite. I think the first brick was around the 8.00 pm, 8.30 pm mark, just as dusk was falling.
Q344 Lorraine Fullbrook: People were coming off the train?
Jane Ellison: People were massing. At that point what the British Transport police told me, because I think they had been radioed, was that Halfords in York Road, which is quite close by, had already been looted and attacked. I confirmed that when I called in to see the Halfords staff a couple of days later. There had already been violence at that stage and they said that these two large groups were massing and the police were pinned down, really, trying to manage these groups, but they basically said, "It’s just a matter of time, it’s all going to kick off."
The station was still operating. I am not sure, I believe it closed, or one entrance closed. They reckon it closed for a brief time but I think it was open throughout because people were-unsuspecting commuters were just coming home. I met a couple who had come home from the cinema and walked into a riot in their road. They just couldn’t believe what was going on.
Q345 Lorraine Fullbrook: Just going back to the Reverend Perkin saying there were two lines of public order officers and they had been told to observe, what have either of you been told about police numbers?
Jane Ellison: I was just told that it wasn’t a question of pure numbers, but of not having public order trained police available.
Q346 Chair: This is fascinating evidence that you have given the Committee. It must have been a most extraordinary couple of nights in Clapham. How old is your son, Reverend Perkin?
Reverend Perkin: Twenty-two.
Q347 Chair: What was his impression of what was going on?
Reverend Perkin: At one level, we didn’t feel in any danger. The violence was against property and very selective too, not against people and not really against-the one fire that erupted much later was really after the main looters had left. We didn’t feel unsafe personally. Yet, on the other hand, my son, who three years ago spent a year in Zimbabwe during the most difficult time there, said he felt much safer on the streets of Harare than he did in Clapham Junction that night.
Chair: That is extraordinary.
Jane Ellison: People were very frightened. A couple of weeks after, local councillors and I went door to door in all the affected roads and the predominant words people used were they felt frightened and they felt angry and frustrated. The overwhelming sense from the many people who have written to me and the people I have spoken to, is that they just couldn’t believe that their normally peaceful, decent streets had been ceded to the criminals. They felt like the streets had been abandoned to criminals.
Q348 Chair: The overriding view from this evidence is that there should have been more police earlier, more robust policing and police officers who were trained to try and stop this disorder. There was also a surreal impression of, "Why are they just standing there?"
Jane Ellison: Chairman, my questions are all about the early part of the evening. I cannot put that timeline together of why there would seem to have been intelligence on the ground that trouble was brewing and yet I was being briefed that there was no specific intelligence about a particular place. I suppose my big question, which I very much hope comes out of your inquiry, is whether there was action that could have been taken earlier in the evening-dispersal action, that sort of thing-that would have stopped it reaching critical mass. I quite accept when it reached critical mass it was extremely difficult for the number of officers who were there, but I question, I suppose, what was happening late afternoon, early evening, to allow critical mass to build up.
Chair: Reverend Perkin, Ms Ellison, thank you for coming to give evidence to us today. I endorse the views of the Committee: you played a very important leadership role in your local community, for which you should be commended. Reverend Perkin, thank you for what you did on the night and if there is any further information you wish to give this Committee, please write to us. Thank you very much.