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Warning after 2,000 held over London riots

Tom Morgan,Wesley Johnson
Thursday 25 August 2011 18:00 BST

Scotland Yard warned fugitive rioters tonight that it was "far from finished" as the force confirmed that more than 2,000 suspects have been arrested over the capital's disturbances.

Of 2,006 people held by officers over the violence that swept through London earlier this month, 1,135 people have been charged.

Commander Simon Foy said: "I want to send a clear message to those involved that you will not get away with it."

The arrest tally was announced as Home Secretary Theresa May met police and executives from social media networks to see how they could help prevent them being used for criminal behaviour.

But the Government did not seek any additional powers to close down networks such as BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook or Twitter, the Home Office said.

The likes of BlackBerry Messenger - a service which allows users to send free-of-charge real-time messages - enabled rioters to organise their movements during the widespread looting and vandalism across England a fortnight ago.

Following today's meeting, a Home Office spokeswoman said: "The Home Secretary, along with the Culture Secretary and Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, has held a constructive meeting with Acpo (the Association of Chief Police Officers), the police and representatives from the social media industry.

"The discussions looked at how law enforcement and the networks can build on the existing relationships and co-operation to prevent the networks being used for criminal behaviour.

"The Government did not seek any additional powers to close down social media networks."

Figures from the Metropolitan Police show 954 cases have appeared in court, with 82 people sentenced and 42 jailed.

Mr Foy added: "The determination and dedication of officers from all parts of the Met have led to this important milestone but we are far from finished.

"The investigation into the widespread criminality we saw remains a major task on an unprecedented scale.

"We have got to this point with fantastic support from the public and I urge anyone with any information to come forward."

Police have now published pictures of those given significant custodial sentences on Flickr.

Mr Foy said: "We have made these pictures available so that communities across London can see that those who took part in the appalling scenes which shocked us all have been brought to justice."

Scotland Yard's Operation Withern team has recorded a total 3,443 crimes across the capital linked to the disorder.

Ministers met technology chiefs amid speculation over the possibility of a clampdown on social networking after it was seized upon by troublemakers to incite unprecedented levels of civil disobedience.

Facebook has pointed out that it has already prioritised its review of content on the site that is "egregious during sensitive times like the UK riots", with a view to further reducing the time it took to take such material down and "disincentivise bad actors on the site".

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs after the riots that the Government was trying to establish how to stop the internet being a tool for troublemakers to organise disruption.

Asked about Twitter's role during the escalating violence in London, Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin told the Home Affairs Select Committee last week that he had contemplated seeking the authority to switch it off.

But he added: "The legality of that is very questionable and additionally it is also a very useful intelligence asset."

Tory MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire and avid tweeter Louise Mensch has lent her backing to temporarily blocking activity on social media sites.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: "We welcome the fact that this was a dialogue about working together to keep people safe rather than about imposing new restrictions on internet services.

"We were pleased to highlight our array of effective reporting tools and the relationships we have built with law enforcement to keep the site safe for the 30 million people in the UK use Facebook - especially during times of crisis.

"We were also able to revisit the positive role Facebook played during the riots - from letting friends and family know they are safe to helping facilitate local clean-up operations.

"There is no place for illegal activity on Facebook and we take firm action against those who breach our rules."

A spokeswoman for BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (Rim) said the meeting had been "positive and productive".

"We were pleased to consult on the use of social media to engage and communicate during times of emergency," she said.

"Rim continues to maintain an open and positive dialogue with the UK authorities and continues to operate within the context of UK regulations."

Shadow Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: "The Government have succeeded in getting headlines from talking about BlackBerrys and social media, but what's come out of it?

"Instead of headline-grabbing spin that fades away, the Government should change course and stop cutting over 16,000 police officers across the country.

"That's what the public want to see."


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