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What the riots mean for Ken Clarke

15 September 2011

The more we learn about the riots, the more it is becoming clear that experienced
criminals were responsible for a lot of the looting. The Standard reports today that in London a quarter of those charged in
relation to the riots had already been convicted of ten or more offences. What remains to be seen is if these hardened criminals instigated the riots, or simply took advantage of them.

The involvement of these veterans of crime demonstrates the need both for better work on rehabilitating prisoners and for longer sentences to keep habitual criminals off the streets. The problem
with Ken Clarke is that he, admittedly partly for budget reasons, only wants to see one side of this equation.

The riots have been overshadowed by the brewing financial crisis. But, given the economic outlook, dealing with the social problems identified by the riots is becoming ever more important to
Cameron’s chances of re-election.

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Show comments
  • FvH

    @Ron Todd – that’s exactly what I meant by “Workless Class” – if I wasn’t clear – apologies
    I was born on a very rough scheme in Dundee, Scotland
    My parents worked hard, we got out, lots of folk we knew didn’t
    My point is that it is really too late for a lot of the touted “solutions”
    Politics has to contain an element of “hope” and “faith” that things can be improved, otherwise society might just crumble altogether
    My point really is that rally the problem areas will just go on getting worse and worse and worse
    That’s the reality

  • ROJ

    “The problem with Ken Clarke is that he, admittedly partly for budget reasons, only wants to see one side of this equation.”

    There are more than two elements in this budgetary equation. Against the extra cost of longer sentences for habitual criminals is the saving in the costs of the crimes that they then are not free to commit, and the costs on investigating those crimes.

  • Ron Todd



    I am working class. The working, working class what in old fashioned terms was called the respectable working class. I would never consider looting even if the shop window had already been smashed. None of the other working class people I know would either. We need to differentiate between the not working but wanting to work, a group I have been in a few times, and those who have no intention of finding honest employment.

  • FvH

    I love the way that James F (writing from his 6th form common room ivory tower) imagines that somehow these repeat offenders are like a separate group from the honest toiling working class!!!

    They are the working (workless) class

    I’m afraid we are way past the point if no return in this country – does anybody really think that Clarke and IDS will sort it all out?????

    For all if us on here there are some simple guidelines:

    – move as far away from inner city areas as you can ( note Ealing is not far enough away)

    – invest more if your disposable income on personal and domestic security

    – get your tax affairs in order so you are not funding the underclass “lifestyle” in any way

    Sad but true

  • Ron Todd

    Ten or more previous convictions? And most of them were young people. So what length of sentence are people getting once they have been convicted ten times, can’t be very long and is n either rehabilitating or deterring.

    I do not expect much to happen before we get a Tory PM leading a Tory government.

    I am more optimistic about school reforms but that will take a while to have any effect on crime and there is no certainty that Cameron’s liberals or the next Labour government will not undo any improvements Gove makes.

  • nonny mouse

    More important that what the riots meant for Ken is what the riots should mean for Michael:

  • David Jones

    “a quarter of those charged in relation to the riots had already been convicted of ten or more offences”

    Do you know what the word “charged” means? It means they have not been convicted of any offence.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    The Department Of Justice figures are relatively meaningless and Clarke’s views the mutterings of a deluded old fool.

    All the astonishing conclusion that the vast majority of those CAUGHT proves is that the police can check their records to identify find known criminals caught on video footage. What we don’t know is how many unidentified suspects are still being sought, how many have been let off with police cautions and how many have got away with their part in the riots scot free?

    Percentages of those ‘charged’ mean nothing significant really unless we have the rest of the information. Clarke’s spinning like a top to try and push his ridiculously myopic agenda.

    Oh and as shorter effective sentences caused the prison population to sky rocket, logically longer sentences (in the medium term) should reduce (not increase) the prison population. That’s what they call a deterrent effect……

  • Baron

    London Calling has summed up in a way any other compassionate, noble, eager to help burgher would have likely summed up from about forty years ago till now: “what needs to be done to help these individuals – the core problem being unemployment, poor literacy, as well as disturbing life experiences that has stunted emotional stability and maturity into adulthood”.

    Sir, before the war the core problem of “unemployment, poor literacy, as well as disturbing life experiences that has stunted emotional stability and maturity into adulthood” were more acute, more widespread, more painfully felt, yet the level of criminality of any sort was a miniscule of that we have now.

    Explain it to the poorly educated Slav, if you will.

  • London Calling

    I forget to add this link to my previous post…

    Magistrates were told to send rioters to crown court

    The emails were sent to justices’ clerks, who sit alongside magistrates providing guidance on the law and sentencing recommendations. The first, addressed “Dear all”, began: “I should be grateful if you would ensure that the following advice is cascaded to every member of your legal team as soon as possible.
    “The sentencing guidelines cannot sensibly be used to determine the sentence in cases arising from the recent disturbances/looting. When the guidelines were written nothing like this was envisaged.”
    Most of those arrested for looting had been charged with “commercial burglary”, it noted. “The general advice from the higher judiciary is that we will not be criticised if we return these … If in doubt, commit to the crown court.”

  • London Calling

    Watching the media footage of shop windows being smashed, it is apparent that in most cases it was lone individuals who struck first whilst onlookers stood back and joined in the looting afterwards.

    If the core group of repeat offenders were not present at the riots, would the scenes we witnessed have escalated as they did? I think not judging by the pack mentality whereby the worst offenders who set the tone of moral decadence led the way for onlookers to follow without questioning their own moral Conscience as the looting escalated.

    Rehabilitation doesn’t work, the group who reoffend consider release from prison into what they consider a social prison, an environment that neither wants them nor is willing to support them. I learnt this from a woman who works for a charity which supports released offenders within her community, she informed me the charity’s support is basic, and went on into the long hours explaining to me what needs to be done to help these individuals, the core problem being unemployment, poor literacy, as well as disturbing life experiences that has stunted emotional stability and maturity into adulthood.

    The courts were advised to extend sentences, to be tougher as the riots were crimes not accounted for with previous sentences, and therefore the followers who had looted and had not committed a crime prior to the riots were severely punished, some for sixteen months into an environment that it is hoped will teach them a harsh lesson, I disagree, if a second chance so lorded by David Cameron is redemption and a reflection of ones mistakes, then British Justice has not reflected this and these young individuals that have behaved stupidly have not been given a second chance. I proposed community service for these individuals, feeling shame is far harsher and more productive than being imprisoned.

  • Dennis Churchill

    The primary purpose of a criminal justice system is to reduce crime; if it fails in that primary purpose it is unfit for purpose.
    The fact is that recidivists may need to spend the majority of their adult lives in prison to prevent them doing a disproportionate amount of harm to the quality of life of the majority.
    The first thing to concentrate on is the amount of drugs in our prisons and the first step in eliminating them and allowing a more flexible approach to allocating prison places is to stop face to face visiting.
    All contact should be via video link from purpose designed centres. Our prisons could then be moved to more out of the way locations.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    “The problem with Ken Clarke is that he, admittedly partly for budget reasons, only wants to see one side of this equation.”

    A tendentious point of view, I must say. It suits you to claim that Clarke’s position is faulty because he’s only willing to see one side of the argument, yet at no stage do you discuss the consequences of longer incarceration other than the disincentive effect this may have on crime-repetition. You fail to take into account those early-release prisoners who don’t re-offend, and how detrimental imprisonment is to them and to those who in some way depend upon them. You fail to examine the opportunity cost of increasing the prison population – what else we could do with the resource that is committed to this.

    Perhaps Clarke’s considering these consequences, and a hundred more besides, all of which you are ignoring, and that this is the reason why he’s arriving at a conclusion that is different from yours. Maybe it’s your position that’s faulty, not his?

  • Marvin

    To me it says that amongst a certain segment of society a criminal record is no longer a badge of shame nor is it a deterrent to living and sustaining a material lifestyle whereas to the hardpressed, middle income earning tax drones it would be seen as the end of their lives as they knew it.

  • Vulture

    I heard Clarke on the Welt am Eins ( as we must soon call it when the German takeover is finalised).

    Past it does not come close. Waffly, blustering, clueless and deluded. The fact that Dave has this old dinosaur in a key
    Ministry tell you all you need to know.

    If we had all listened to Clarke we’d be heading to hell in the Euro right now, so why should we let him give our criminals a free pass? He’s long lost whatever it was he once had.

  • denis cooper

    “better work on rehabilitating prisoners”

    Our prison system is an absolute bloody national disgrace, but unfortunately most of the people who see that clearly are also soft-hearted people who feel an excessive sympathy for criminals and who therefore argue that the answer must be not to send people to prison at all, which in the long term has just made the problems even worse and more intractable.

  • Wily Trout

    ‘The riots have been overshadowed by the brewing financial crisis’ – for one awful minute I thought you meant the beer was going to run out. Please be more careful with your language! Some of us are easily alarmed.

  • Tom Gallagher

    Just because such a high proportion of those arrested in the aftermath of the riots had criminal records, it does not mean that previous law-breakers were in the vanguard of the disorders.
    It will have been much easier for the police to apprehend people already known to them, particularly through photographic and other form of ID. This claim is, i suspect, part of the effort within officialdom to show that the August troubles were a random event rather than a game-changer which requires an urgent review of madcap social policies in order to avert worse in the future.

  • Nickle

    By all means offer rehabilitation.

    However, for repeat offenders the scale of the punishment by locking them up needs to happen sooner than under the current system.

    If we get the 25% of the small number convicted of rioting in jail for long sentences, they are clearly the ones committing multiple crimes. It’s cost effective for society to have them locked up until they grow out of it.

  • Bob Dixon

    Prison is there to keep us safe from convicted prisoners.

  • Baron

    Neither better work on rehabilitation, nor longer sentences per se, nor any other measure proposed by the pseudo-liberal tossers would do it, only the refurbishing of punishment with abit of pain can deliver, trust Baron, he knows, he has not only looked it up.

  • In2minds

    “dealing with the social problems identified by the riots is becoming ever more important to Cameron’s chances of re-election”

    So with Ken Clarke helping him it’s back to a job in PR then?

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