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UK riots: Fewer than one in 10 arrested were gang members

 

Most police forces found that fewer than one in 10 of those arrested over the August riots were gang members and gangs “generally did not play a pivotal role” in the disturbances, figures showed today.

Even in London, where gang membership among those arrested was highest at 19%, most of those held were not in gangs, the Home Office figures showed.

“In terms of the role gangs played in the disorder, most forces perceived that where gang members were involved, they generally did not play a pivotal role,” officials said.

But more than a third of young people aged 10 to 17 who were involved in the riots had been excluded from school during 2009/10, other figures released by the Ministry of Justice showed.

This compared with just 6% of all Year 11 pupils.

Two-thirds of young people in the riots also had special educational needs, compared with a fifth of all pupils.

And two-fifths were in receipt of free school meals, compared with less than a fifth of secondary school pupils, the figures showed.

The figures, which were based on matching Ministry of Justice (MoJ) records with those from the national pupil database held by the Department for Education, showed 36% of young people – some 139 10-17-year-olds – appearing before the courts over the violence and looting had received one or more fixed-term exclusions in 2009/10, compared with just 5.6% of all pupils aged 15.

A total of 11, 3% of young people appearing before courts over the riots, had been permanently excluded, compared with 0.1% of all those children aged 15 at the start of the 2009/10 academic year.

Of all the young people appearing before the courts, three in 10 (30%) were persistent absentees from school, compared with just four per cent – less than one in 20 – of all pupils in maintained secondary schools, the figures showed.

Overall absence rates were also higher for those young people involved in the riots, up to 18.6% compared with 8.4% for all pupils in school year 11.

Iain Duncan Smith

The findings appear to contradict Iain Duncan Smith’s claim earlier this month that gangs played a “significant part” in August’s riots.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said tackling Britain’s “violent gang culture” was vital, and restoring the economy went “hand in hand with restoring society”.

He told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester he believed the riots “provided a moment of clarity for us all, a reminder that a strong economy requires a strong social settlement, with stable families ready to play a productive role in their communities”.

Mr Duncan Smith accused Labour of overseeing the establishment of a British underclass which exploded onto the streets over five nights two months ago.

He said the riots were a “wake-up call” which showed “containing” the underclass had failed.

“The scenes of young people ransacking local businesses, displaying stolen goods on the internet, spoke to a damaging culture on the rise in recent years,” he said.

“Gang members were not the sole perpetrators of the riots but they played a significant part.”

Today’s figures showed most of those involved in the riots were aged under 20, with 26% aged 10 to 17 and 27% aged 18 to 20, the figures showed.

A British riot policeman stands guard in front of a burning building and burnt out car in Croydon

Of the adults involved, 35% were claiming an out-of-work benefit at the time, compared with 12% of the general working age population in England and 45% of all offenders sentenced for an indictable offence last year.

Three-quarters of all those who appeared in court had a previous conviction or caution.

MoJ officials said: “It is clear that compared to population averages, those brought before the courts were more likely to be in receipt of free school meals or benefits, were more likely to have had special educational needs and be absent from school, and are more likely to have some form of criminal history.

“This pattern held across all areas looked at.”

In terms of ethnicity, 46% of those appearing in court were from black or mixed black backgrounds, 42% were white, 7% were Asian and 5% were classified as “other”.

In Haringey, north London, Nottingham, and Birmingham – three key scenes of August’s riots – the proportion of those brought before the courts over the riots who were white was significantly lower, and those from a black and mixed black background significantly higher, than the proportion in the resident population.

However in other areas, such as Salford, the ethnicity breakdown mostly reflected that of the resident population.

In Haringey, 55% of defendants were from a black or mixed black background and 34% were white, compared with 17% and 62% respectively of the resident population under 40.

In Nottingham, 62% of defendants were from a black or mixed black background and 32% were white, compared with 9% and 71% respectively of the resident population under 40.

And in Birmingham, 46% of defendants were from a black or mixed black background, 33% were white and 15% from an Asian background, compared with 9%, 58% and 30% respectively of the resident population under 40.

For the first time, the detailed figures showed one in eight of all crimes committed during the disturbances were muggings.

A total of 664 individuals were targeted, with victims being robbed or injured, accounting for some 13% of the 5,326 crimes recorded.

More than 2,500 shops and businesses were targeted by the looters and vandals, with more than 230 homes being targeted by burglars or vandals.

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