19/09/2011 11:10 BST | Updated 19/11/2011 10:12 GMT

Police Failed Over Riots, Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate Brian Paddick Tells Conference

Senior Metropolitan police officers should have predicted the riots that engulfed England in July, and let down London with an ineffective response to them, so says the Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor.

Brian Paddick also told his party's conference that the Met misled the public by blaming their failure on a lack of resources.

The former assistant deputy commissioner at the Met drew applause from LibDem delegates with his critique of the London riots operation, which led to more than a thousand arrests in the capital.

He said:

"The police have tried to defend themselves by saying that with 20-20 hindsight we'd have done this differently. Well I have to tell you I was a police commander in 2002 when unfortunately police shot somebody who was carrying a cigarette lighter in the shape of a gun, and a peaceful protest about that shooting developed into a riot. And the police should have known that was going to happen in Tottenham on that Saturday night."

Speaking at a debate on the riots, Paddick rejected claims from police that they lacked enough officers, training or equipment to deal with the situation.

Instead Paddick attacked senior officers for tactical mistakes, and even claimed they had inflamed the riots further by taking too long to quell the violence.

"The fact is that with 24-hour media, and with pictures of looters walking out of shops with their ill-gotten gains, walking past police offers unchallenged, being beamed around the country, that is what I believe resulted in copycat violence," Paddick said, again drawing applause from LibDems.

Paddick also won plaudits from LibDems for rejecting the wording of a motion put to party members that praised the use of closed-circuit television.

"Am I at a Liberal Democrat conference? Are we praising CCTV? Conference, what is this about?"

"What is effective in stopping crime is not CCTV. What is effective in stopping crime is having police officers at the scene, where the trouble is, taking effective action, and arresting those people."

"The thing that is going to deter people from committing crime is the certainty that they are going to get caught."

Paddick, who in an unscripted moment recognised that he was "on a roll", went on to criticise the "draconion sentences" being handed down to offenders.

"We need policies like restorative justice that prevent re-offending, rather than draconian sentences being passed just because magistrates and judges come under political pressure," he said.

Also speaking at the debate, Tom Brake MP, who is co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equality, said:

“The motion we have passed today avoids a knee-jerk response to last month’s disturbances. Complex problems require carefully considered solutions not sound bites.

“Liberal Democrats will continue to push for effective evidence-based policies to cut crime and boost rehabilitation. That means tough sentences for serious crimes and tough community sentences for low level offenders.”

Paddick's criticism comes on the same day that Paul McKeever, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales which represents rank and file officers, accused the LibDems of "collective amnesia" over elected police commissioners.

Writing on The Huffington Post UK in a forthcoming blog post, McKeever says: "There was a notable silence from a certain corner of the House whose peers recently gave the go ahead for PCC legislation to move through the other place. I refer of course to the Liberal Democrats."

The LibDems "seem to be suffering from some form of collective amnesia," McKeever writes.

"It does not feel to me, and I am sure others, that long ago that we were at the party conferences of 2010 - where the hot topic was PCCs," he writes. "I recall the sense of friction around the whole issue and how many members were equally concerned over the potential pitfalls of allowing so much power to be wielded by so few. I even recall Tom Brake’s claims that they would push for PCCs to be run as a pilot scheme so that any of the said pitfalls could be assessed in full away from the hyperbole of Westminster."

"No pilot followed."