Leading article: Mark Duggan's death still needs explaining

The police inquiry is so slow the coroner is threatening contempt of court

Related Topics

It is all too easy to forget, amid the euphoria of the Olympics, just how different the public mood was just one year ago. For five long days and nights last August, riots spread from London to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, Nottingham, Bristol, Leeds and even to quiet towns like Gloucester. Five people died, 4,000 were arrested, and any number of shops, flats and businesses were destroyed. In all, one of the biggest outbreaks of civil unrest for generations wreaked more than £200m worth of damage.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the incident which sparked the rioting – the police shooting of a black man, a gangster whom they claimed (wrongly, it turned out) was exchanging fire with officers. It is, therefore, a salutary moment to consider whether unrest on such a scale might happen again.

Certainly the intervening 12 months have brought no satisfactory answers to the many questions surrounding the death of Mark Duggan which prompted his family to claim police were pursuing a "shoot first, ask questions later" policy and first brought protestors onto the streets. No officer has been charged with any offence arising out of the fatal incident. An inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission is proceeding so slowly that the coroner conducting Mr Duggan's inquest has threatened to bring contempt of court proceedings against the watchdog. Even Scotland Yard has condemned the tardiness, while the Duggan family has called for the IPCC to be abolished for institutional bias. Public confidence in either the police, or their regulatory authorities, is hardly bolstered by such proceedings.

Meanwhile, gloomier commentators are predicting that last summer's riots could easily reoccur. An official Government inquiry blamed a range of factors for the unrest, citing everything from chronic shortages of jobs for young people, poor parenting and the justice system's failure to rehabilitate offenders, to consumer materialism and youthful hostility towards the police. With socio-economic conditions broadly unchanged, the doom-mongers warn, the tensions that exploded last summer are equally unresolved.

There is some evidence to support such a position. Extensive interviews with rioters conducted by researchers from the London School of Economics suggested a strong sense of unfairness as a major motivation. Many contrasted the unethical behaviour of economy-busting bankers and expenses-fiddling MPs with the hopelessness of their own lack of opportunities. Others attacked austerity measures which left the rich unscathed and hit the vulnerable hardest, with student tuition fees and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance widely cited causes of resentment. But although such sentiments cannot be entirely discounted, they carry a whiff of after-the-fact justification for behaviour which smacked as much of greed and opportunism as of politics by another means.

The conditions that allowed them to flourish are unlikely to be replicated, not least because the police have learned vital lessons about how to nip unrest in the bud before it spreads, paying more attention to the use of social media and refining tactics for deploying officers on the streets. The severe sentences handed out to rioters will also act as a powerful deterrent. And then, of course, there is the change to the collective mood brought on by, first, the Jubilee and, now, the Olympics.

Fears of a repetition of the events of last summer seem unduly alarmist, then. But that is no excuse for the circumstances around the death of Mark Duggan to remain so unsatisfactorily explained. One year on, those are the questions that still demand answers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Pensions

£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Client Services Executive / Account Executive - SW London

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Executive / Client Services ...

PA to CEO / Executive Secretary

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Executive PA to CEO & Executive Dire...

Day In a Page

Read Next

August catch-up: dress to impress, words to use more often, and the end of the internet

John Rentoul
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis