Looting leaves taxpayers with £140m bill for extra policing

Scotland Yard has admitted the force was caught completely unawares by the extent of the violence

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The Independent Online

The riots that broke out in London and other cities last month will leave the taxpayer with a bill of £140m from the cost of extra policing and compensating businesses, police chiefs disclosed yesterday.

The acting head of Scotland Yard also admitted that the force had been caught completely unawares by the extent of the violence and admitted he wished he had deployed more officers on the capital's streets earlier.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and senior police officers recalled the scale of the unrest in evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which is investigating the worst riots to hit England for three decades.

They started in Tottenham, north London, following the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, and spread within days to 22 boroughs as well as the West Midlands and North-west. The MPs were told the extra policing costs were estimated at £74m for London and £50m for the rest of the country.

Businesses targeted by the looters in London have applied for compensation totalling £9.3m under the Riot Damages Act. The figure could double when shops in other parts of the country are included. Tim Godwin, the acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner, acknowledged he wished he had had more officers on duty when gangs of looters hit several shopping centres virtually unchallenged. He admitted that his force simply ran out of officers, saying: "Sometimes you suddenly realise how thin the blue line is."

Mr Godwin hinted at moves to increase the 2,500 officers in London trained to deal with serious public disturbances. He said: "I think the issue of 'where are all the cops?' is an issue we're going to be confronting in the next 12 months, in terms of maximising our footprint and getting those numbers out there."

Mr Godwin accepted his force could also have done more to track messages between rioters on social-networking sites. He also said it had failed to stay in contact with Mr Duggan's family after his death.

Mr Johnson suggested that, in an effort to ease the pressure on the force, officers currently on long-term sick leave could be drafted into back-office jobs to enable warranted officers to be on the front line. He and Mr Godwin supported an earlier warning from the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, that the unrest demonstrated that the country's penal system was "broken". He revealed that almost three-quarters of the adults charged with rioting had previous convictions.

*The Mayor announced that the replacement for Sir Paul Stephenson, who resigned in July, will be named on Monday after a final round of interviews. The candidates include: Mr Godwin; Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers; Stephen House, the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police; Bernard Hogan-Howe, former Chief Constable of Merseyside.

Riots in brief

A teenage judo star was detained for eight months yesterday after taking part in looting during last month's riots, court officials said.

Anthony Lloyd, 17, was found by police with his pockets "bulging" with stolen cigarettes and jewellery during disturbances in Manchester, the city's youth court heard.

Lloyd of Hanover Street South, Audenshaw, Greater Manchester, had pleaded guilty to burglary of a non-dwelling property and handling stolen goods. He was sentenced to eight months' detention and training for each count, to serve concurrently, a spokesman for the court said.

At an earlier hearing, District Judge Jonathan Taaffe heard Lloyd was stopped by police at 9.30pm at the height of the disorder which struck the city on 9 August.

Kathryn Eccles, for the prosecution, said officers noticed his pockets "bulging" and ordered a search, which recovered £66 worth of cigarettes and a quantity of jewellery.

Lloyd, whose social worker father and mother, a nurse, supported him in court, admitted he had taken the cigarettes from a newsagent.

Miss Eccles added he found the jewellery on the ground where it was left after being looted by somebody else.

Estelle Parkhouse, defending, said Lloyd was part of the British Judo team and was returning from training that Tuesday night when he heard about the disorder.

The solicitor added that the defendant had overcome some emotional difficulties and dyslexia but was studying for a sports science diploma at Manchester College.

"Here we have a man who is from a good family and has never been before the courts before," Miss Parkhouse said.

"He had finished training that night and ventured into the city centre out of curiosity.

"He took the jewellery that he had seen on the street, he knew it had been stolen and it was his intention to give it to his girlfriend."

A spokesman for the British Judo Association confirmed Lloyd is a member of the organisation but said that although the youth had taken part in some domestic competitions, he was never successful enough to be selected to represent his country.