11 Aug 2011

Cameron vows to ‘track down and punish’ rioters

Prime Minister David Cameron announces greater police powers to deal with riots as he pledges to do “whatever it takes” to restore order to the streets after four nights of violence.

Speaking to a recalled House of Commons, the Prime Minister said anyone involved in the riots would be tracked down and brought to justice.

David Cameron pledged today to do “whatever it takes” to restore order to the streets after four nights of rioting in major English cities. He told rioters: “You will pay for what you have done. We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you and we will punish you.”

Mr Cameron admitted that there had been problems with the initial police response to the riots, which were sparked on Saturday in Tottenham in response to police marksmen killing Mark Duggan, but quickly escalated and spread across the country.

Three men died in Birmingham during the riots in an apparent hit and run incident while they were protecting their local community.

“There were simply far too few police deployed on to our streets and the tactics they were using weren’t working,” he told MPs.

He said police officers would be granted more power to remove face coverings and disperse crowds.

You will pay for what you have done. We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you and we will punish you. David Cameron

“Whenever the police face a new threat, they must have the freedom and the confidence to change tactics. There will be no complacency. And we will not stop until this mindless violence and thuggery is defeated and law and order is fully restored on all our streets,” he said.

FactCheck: Counting the cost of the riots

Mr Cameron also addressed the use of social media to spread violence.

“We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality,” he said.

David Cameron has held an emergency session of Parliament on the London riots.

Compensation support scheme

Mr Cameron also announced a £22m high street support scheme to help businesses get back on their feet. He promised that people or businesses affected by the riots would be compensated, whether they had insurance or not.

“We will help you repair the damage, get your businesses back up and running; and support your communities. And whereas normally claims must be received within 14 days, we will extend the period to 42 days,” he said.

The debate in Parliament follows a quieter night on the streets as the tactic of flooding trouble hotspots with police officers, coupled with heavy rain in some areas, prevented a fifth night of disorder.

More than 1,200 people have been arrested over the riots. Dozen of suspects were detained as the Metropolitan Police carried out dawn raids across the capital on Thursday and magistrates in several cities have been working through the night to deal with the arrests.

Police cuts

David Cameron also came under renewed pressure to scrap proposed cuts to police numbers.

Read more from Channel 4 News: why were there riots?

Opposition leader Ed Miliband said it was “not right” for Mr Cameron to rethink plans to slash £2bn from police funding.

“The events of the last few days have been a stark reminder to us all that police on our streets make our communities safer and make the public feel safer,” he said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson and senior Labour figures have already called for cuts to police numbers to be halted in the light of the riots. But Mr Cameron said even with cuts, the police force would “still be able to surge as many officers on to the streets as we have in recent days”.

‘Long-term debates needed’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Government’s first obligation was to “show that we can keep our streets safe”.

“I think the immediate priority is to see through what the police have been doing successfully in the last few days, which is getting on top of the situation, making sure that the streets are safe again, getting people into court and getting them behind bars where appropriate.”

He said longer-term debates were needed in the coming weeks and months but this would start in Parliament later.

On Wednesday, Mr Cameron said that the “fightback” was working and water cannons would be made available to police at 24 hours notice.

It is the second time in less than a month that MPs have been recalled for an emergency session. The first emergency session was to discuss the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.