12 Aug 2011

PM under pressure to abandon police funding cuts

10:19 pm on 12 August 2011

Britain's Prime Minister is under increasing pressure to abandon plans to cut police funding after the country's worst rioting in decades.

Five people have died as a result of the riots, scores of others have been injured and many buildings have been looted and burned.

More than 1500 arrests have been made since the unrest began last Saturday following the police shooting of a man in the north London borough of Tottenham on 4 August. The riots then quickly spread to other major cities and towns.

At an emergency session of parliament on Thursday, David Cameron said the mindless violence and thuggery must be defeated and law and order fully restored on Britain's streets.

"I've said before that there is a major problem in our society, with children growing up not knowing the difference between right and wrong.

"This is not about poverty - it's about culture. A culture that glorifies violence, that shows disrespect for authority and that says everything about rights, but nothing about responsibility."

Mr Cameron said police would be given extra powers, including the ability to order youths to remove face coverings and the use of curfews is to be reviewed.

He said the lawless minority responsible for the violent disorder would be hunted down and punished, and blamed police for their initial response.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh has admitted the force did not have enough officers on duty to deal with the chaos.

However, the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers says commanders reacted quickly to the severity of the first night's riots, increasing police numbers and adopting more robust tactics.

Sir Hugh Orde said the decision to bolster the number of officers available in London to 16,000 to deal with the disorder was made by leaders of the police service who understood the issues because they had experience of frontline policing, the BBC reports.

"The police faced an unprecedented situation - not just in London - but across the country. They were truly unique circumstances and what the service did, as it always does, is learn and respond with incredible speed.

"The force responded, I think, magnificently and the officers put huge effort into protecting communities and, more importantly, protecting life."

Responding to Home Secretary Theresa May's remarks on Wednesday that she had ordered them to follow the Metropolitan Police approach and cancel all leave, Sir Hugh said she had no power whatsoever to do this.

He suggested that police tactics had nothing to do with the return from holiday of Mrs May, Mr Cameron and other senior ministers, saying the fact politicians came back was "an irrelevance".

A bolstered police force will be out on the streets of London throughout the weekend.