All night they came, dazed and confused, to face justice

Looting accused have their night in court

Westminster magistrates' court

One o'clock in the morning: an 18-year-old girl in a tight T-shirt and jeans sits listening, or maybe not, as a string of accusations is read out: that she attacked shops, forced entry, hurled concrete masonry first at police – who fled – and then at their £60,000 patrol car, causing £5,000 damage. Good-quality CCTV pictures apparently show her in a street in Enfield, north London, around 6pm on Sunday. She is, so the prosecution lawyer says, with a predominantly male group of about 50 masked individuals who are behaving with extreme violence. She is said to have been identified by her distinctive appearance and, it emerges, because her estranged mother was watching TV and phoned the police. The girl rises to give her name, address (none) and date of birth, then she sits back down, appearing listless, bored and petulant by turns as proceedings motor on. Hers is just one case, among 60, to be heard at a special all-night sitting of Westminster magistrates' court – sittings replicated around the country to deal with this week's looters, arsonists and muggers.

She faces charges including violence, theft of telephone equipment and criminal damage. Almost in a whisper, she pleads not guilty. Her lawyer puts the case for bail, saying that since she broke with her mother at 16 and then with her stepmother, she had been staying at a friend's flat in a nearby tower block. She is refused bail and told to appear at Highbury Corner on 17 August, pending referral to the crown court.

The defence lawyer mentions her sporting expertise, which included playing football "to a respectable level". In fact, the prosecution noted, she had been invited to a reception in the House of Commons – a five-minute walk from the court – to celebrate the success of a community sports programme two years before.

The teenager was preceded in the dock by a tall, stooped black man, with a beard, who shambled in, in a fresh white T-shirt, to answer charges of attempted burglary, burglary and handling stolen goods, relating to the disturbances in east London. There was mention of mental health issues. At times bewildered, and waiting on the nod from his lawyer, he pleaded guilty, before being remanded to a crown court. The accused was led out.

Between 12.15am and 2.30am, just four cases were heard. In one, there was a homeless man under treatment for serious illness, who was accused of looting an east London off-licence, where a mob removed £10,000 of stock in five minutes. In another, a well-built man in his 20s was accused of stealing £40,000 worth of electrical goods.

All in their separate ways, seemed to personify strands of disadvantage; family, social or health dysfunction. These were not the budding professionals jeopardising their life chances. They were already scarred individuals, many had previous convictions, and it was hard to see how their problems could ever be remedied by any means short of one-to-one nurturing, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Two guilty pleas brought remands to crown courts – because the magistrates did not have the power to impose penalties deemed severe enough. "These are very serious offences," the magistrate repeatedly intoned. The two pleading not guilty were remanded to appear at another magistrates' court in a week's time. Very few got bail, not even – later in the night – a woman with a baby of just six weeks.

Relatives, friends, lawyers, court officials, reporters and a very few curious members of the public milled around the court building, betraying increasing tiredness and frustration. People kipped down in the corridors and on the stairs. Among the lawyers and the court officials, though, fatigue was spiked with a strange sense of purpose.

I visited this building a few months before, and found everyone from security to administrative staff universally sullen and obstructive. Now, at dead of night, Westminster magistrates' court was a buzz of activity. And, while not exactly welcoming, police and court officials seemed to want to show that justice could not only be done competently in the nocturnal hours, but it could also be seen to be done.

The defendants...

The ballerina

The 17-year-old girl from Croydon, who cannot be named for legal reasons, handed herself in to police after spotting her picture in a newspaper appeal.

Westminster magistrates' court heard how she was among 30 or 40 young people who stormed into the Richer Sounds store during the riots in Croydon on Monday night.

She was captured on CCTV entering the store before emerging with a large-screen television. She later returned to claim a second television. In total, the store said it lost £190,000 of equipment.

The court heard how the girl, who appeared in the dock with her dyed blonde hair in braids and spoke softly only to confirm her name and age, had studied ballet since the age of seven and had secured a place at a dance academy. Her lawyer said she hoped to become a dancer and dance teacher. The court heard that, despite a search of her home, the televisions were not recovered. She pleaded guilty to burglary and was remanded in custody until her appearance at a crown court.

The journalism student

Ahmed Farah, 27, a journalism and history student from Hackney, east London, was arrested on Lower Clapton Road, Hackney, carrying a kitchen knife. The student, who studies at East London University, told police he had been returning from his uncle's restaurant where he works as a chef.

He pleaded guilty to possession of a knife blade, but the magistrate denied his application for bail. He was remanded in custody until his appearance at crown court later this month.

The would-be sportswoman

Chelsea Ives, 18, was arrested after her mother spotted her on television and called police.

She was filmed by the BBC throwing bricks at a £60,000 police car during the violence in Enfield on Sunday night.

She was also charged with breaking into the mobile phone shops Fones 4 U and Vodafone and stealing equipment.

"She was first to pick up masonry and hurl it at the window," said Becky Owens, for the prosecution.

Westminster magistrates' court heard that Ms Ives said after the alleged rampage that she had "the best day ever".

Ms Ives denied two counts of burglary, violent disorder and attacking a police car. She was described by her solicitor as a "talented sportswoman".

She was remanded in custody until a date in August.

The estate agent, trainee accountant and engineering student

Saffron Armstrong, 22, an accountancy and finance student, Kairo Lawson, 22, a second-year civil engineering student, and Gassam Ojjeh, 22, an estate agent, all from Mitcham, Surrey, were allegedly caught inside a burnt-out PC World store in Colliers Wood when police dogs entered the shop.

The defendants were found in the store on Wednesday, 24 hours after it had been raided by looters during the riots, the court heard. Lisa Brown, for the prosecution, said they had been discovered at around 10.40pm on Monday.

"Clearly these riots were some of the worst that took place," she said. "Substantial damage had been caused and properties had been looted. These offences took place against that backdrop."

The court heard how Armstrong told police when they approached him that he was a freelance journalist assessing the damage. Lawson was said to have resisted arrest. His mother, who was said in court to be terminally ill, was in the packed courtroom to witness his hearing.

Armstrong and Lawson pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to steal, while Mr Ojjeh denied the charges. All three were remanded in custody.

The aspiring youth worker

Natasha Reid, 24, from Edmonton, north London, pleaded guilty to theft and entering with intent to steal, at City of Westminster magistrates' court .

The court heard how she had been on her way to McDonald's in Enfield when she noticed a Comet store had been broken into, where she stole a £300 JVC television. Her lawyer said she handed herself in because she could not sleep with the guilt.

The youth worker

Samir Shah, from St John's Wood, north London, was allegedly among 16 young men who ran up Lodge Road in St John's Wood, trashing a string of cafes and restaurants and threatening customers just after midnight on Wednesday.

Becky Owen, for the prosecution, told Westminster magistrates that the group "ransacked properties and terrorised customers" in the area. Police used CS spray to subdue Mr Shah before his arrest, the court heard. It heard how Mr Shah had worked as a peer mentor at a school in Westminster and had taken part in youth events about gun and youth crime. He also coached football and had an offer to start university in September.

He denied violent disorder and was remanded in custody.

The law student

Marouane Rouhi, 21, a second-year law student from St John's Wood, was allegedly among the same group of youths that were rounded up by police after running rampage along Lodge Road. The court heard he was arrested at Taser point. He claimed he was travelling to the local mosque and had nothing to do with the rampage.

He denied violent disorder and was remanded in custody.

News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
people

Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?