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Don't Elevate this Raggle-Taggle Banditry Ex-Minister Warns MPs

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Amid understandable public fury about the lawlessness that has blighted the streets of England this week MPs should not waste the few hours they have in Thursday's emergency session on name calling and the wickedness versus deprivation debate.

The why and how issues can wait. Parliament must help the hurt and homeless, encourage speedy justice to culprits and cut the risk of more violence and looting, killing and burning.

It is good that there has been no report of raping during these lawless days - listing what has happened reads, in every other way, like a historian describing the Viking invasion.

For the few hours that Parliamentarians have together, concentration ought to be on what to do next. Here are a few small suggestions.

The Riot Damages Act of 1886 lets riot victims, insured and uninsured, claim for their loss from the police, which realistically means the government.

Calls to extend the period for claiming to 42 days make sense. Longer would be better, but there is a massive job to do to get the process rolling. Obscure 19th century legislation will be the last thing on the minds of those so brutally rendered homeless as they struggle to find food, clean clothes and survive in a bed and breakfast.

Traumatised small shopkeepers whose lifelong endeavours lie in cinders might lose again if they don't claim promptly. Even the insured need to take note. Insurers usually expect people to mitigate their loss and might reject or cut claims if people can't show they made a claim on the state.

A task force could be formed uniting efforts from the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Communities and Local Government plus lawyers' organisations so free support is provided for speedy claims.

This is colossally important. Government is sympathetic now but civil servants under cash pressure, assessing claims months down the line, will be duty-bound to mitigate, in turn, the taxpayers' loss, by strictly scrutinising claims and timeliness is a legal factor.

These important claims will bring future restitution. They will not meet the obvious need for immediate investment to reclaim blitzed out neighbourhoods. The government must agree to indemnify local authorities forced to use funds to alleviate hardship and restore normality.

We need to calm down and carry on with economic activity. The public spending v deficit reduction tension must be temporarily suspended.

Growth is now estimated to be a measly 1.4 per cent for the duration of this year. It might be edged up a fraction and cutting state debt will be, at most, minimally slowed by urgent government support to rebuild burnt out homes, to help local businesses who have lost stock and suffered damage to premises, for reinstating highways, pavements and street lighting to render safe and normalise the physical environment and to tackle damage to buildings through demolition costs, shop frontage reconstruction and re-building vandalized storage.

The public expects the poor communities who have been victims of this generational civil war and who in other circumstances would be blamed for the parenting of youth crime, to be joined, at least for now, to the ranks of the worthy poor, who deserve financial support.
There shoul d be assistance too, to resource late summer, community-based campaigns of engagement and activity for local young people.

The villain figures on our TV screen have almost all been young. There must be a danger, especially in afflicted communities that a stigma is attached to youth itself.
Nothing could be likelier to alienate those who stayed away, perhaps at the cost of losing affiliation to their peer group.

Living in a damaged environment amidst community despair will be markedly more discouraging to the impressionable young. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that they deserve special attention and encouragement and it would be foolish to neglect them.
Thereafter public investment must address long term structural issues related to these hard up communities which now urgently need the means to regain a sense of pride.

Thousands more people will be thrown on the dole in this desolation and towns like Tottenham had sky high unemployment already.

Funded intensive community engagement in the re-founding process can range across the gamut from local consultation to special employment schemes, literally to rebuild and redesign.

Keynesianism is far from the natural economic thinking of this government but the companies that receive win the business of rebuilding, can be contractually obliged to employ the local unemployed.

Legal barriers can be permeable in this emergency situation and there must be training obligations too. The Tories should seize this matchless opportunity for their aim of putting the poor to work.

ACPO chief, Sir Hugh Orde is clear that water cannon are little use on the kind of fast-moving crowds we have seen rubbling our High Streets.

Rubber bullets are fiercely dangerous. They very visibly injure individuals who may or may not be at the forefront. They can incite as well as deter.

As well as these practical deficiencies, use of this alien and violent special weaponry would be an affront to policing by consent.

On the whole, right will be most satisfyingly restored by the ordinary police pursuing familiar, publicly recognised day to day tactics.

Better not to elevate this raggle-taggle banditry, soon to be laughed at for its foolishness, in the foothills of jail, into a threat to compare with a generation of political conflict in Northern Ireland, so serious that it first brought these special tactics to the mainland.

Essentially, the battle for order will be won by numbers and by intelligence-driven deployment. Police Community Service Officers could be given powers of arrest so that they can round up culprits, preserving better trained constables for the frontline.

The Crown Prosecution Service must focus on getting a cross section of cases to court very urgently, so that Magistrates and Judges can sentence for all the prevalent categories of offending.

Journalists today relate that they have never seen judges take such severe attitudes, so those sentences will be harsh. Then youths can see where in the pantheon of rioting greats their next's night's plans for fun-packed burglary and arson will land them.

Let's optimise use of the speedy video courts masterminded by Tim Godwin, the Acting Met Police Commissioner. They can sentence guilty pleas by direct link from the police station within hours of arrest. People in custody need to understand that CCTV evidence can be very compelling.

Ken Clarke's 50% discount may be off limits, but the courts will still have to give up to 30% sentence deductions from sentence for early guilty pleas. In this atmosphere that will be worthwhile.

It would be hard to argue that any suspect should be bailed while the riots go on. Ken Clarke must think again about the Legal Aid Bill which totally stops remand in custody for people who won't get a custodial sentence. Some minor players will only have committed summary offences without a risk of jail but will face every risk of getting into more trouble if they are at large.

The Youth Justice Board Bulletin out today, ironically shows falls of 43% in youth criminality over the last ten years. Pity, with that success, it is being abolished in the Coalition's Bonfire of the Quangoes.

Level- headed severity will bring Judges to the obvious sentence of Community Payback for the minnows.

Kids who receive a pair of stolen trainers can pick up the broken glass, scrub off the scorch marks and reflect on the futility of following impulse.

They will need to payback to a neighbouring community like their own but away from the risk of rubbing shoulders with their victims or facing local revenge.