• Situation 'would have been worse if officers had deployed water cannon or plastic bullets'
  • Youngsters blame poverty for riots, survey finds
Rioting spread across Britain during the summer because police 'lost control of the streets', a devastating report by MPs said today.

The home affairs select committee accused police of failing to appreciate the 'magnitude' of the task they faced.

The committee's chairman, Keith Vaz, said that in some parts of the country 'the state effectively ceased to exist - sometimes for hours at a time'.
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The riots spread from Tottenham to other parts of the capital in August

He added: 'This is an utterly unacceptable situation and should never occur again.'

But MPs have said that the situation would have been worse if officers had deployed either water cannon or plastic bullets during the riots.

And they have now challenged the use of such measure in future disturbances.

Groups on the Left have attempted to find other explanations for the riots, which broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6, following the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan.

They then spread to other parts of the capital and other English cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Salford - leaving five people dead.

A joint report by the Guardian and London School of Economics claimed that deep-seated anger and frustration towards the police was a significant factor behind the riots, with officers' incivility a major concern.
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A committee of MPs has blamed the police for losing control of the streets which led to widespread looting

Political, social and economic grievances contributed to the unrest, the report said.

But the MPs laid the blame squarely at the police's door. In terms of motives, the MPs said there is no 'clear element of protest or clear political objectives'.

They said the perception that police had lost control of the streets was the most important reason why the violence and looting spread.

Mr Vaz said: 'Individual police officers acted with great bravery, and we commend them for their actions.

'However, in London and other areas, in contrast with the effectiveness of police responses in some towns and cities, there was a failure of police tactics.
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The lack of police control on the streets during the riots was 'completely unacceptable' according to MPs

'This situation might have been avoided had police appreciated the magnitude of the task.'

The committee's report found the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and especially in London, was flawed.

Forces were not quick enough in flooding the streets with officers, there was no system to give businesses in areas affected by the riots early and consistent advice on what to do.

The report says: 'What ultimately worked in quelling the disorder was increasing the number of police officers on the street.

'If numbers could have been increased more rapidly, it is possible that some of the disturbances could have been avoided.

'We regret that this did not happen and, with the benefit of hindsight, we regard the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and particularly in London, as flawed.'

In the future, a 'strong police presence should also have a deterrent effect on those opportunists considering joining in the disorder', the report said.

It added: 'The single most important reason why the disorder spread was the perception, relayed by television as well as new social media, that in some areas the police had lost control of the streets.'

The committee's report said the specific causes behind the riots were still unknown.

The MPs say: 'It has been clear from the start that the death of Mark Duggan acted as a trigger. It is also clear that there was a great deal of 'copycat' activity. But the clarity ends there.

'Even in Tottenham, it is not clear that the circumstances surrounding the death of Mark Duggan were the only influences at play.

'In other locations, the link to the original trigger is even more tenuous and provides no explanation for what went on.

'Unlike some events in the past, including the riots in the 1980s, there does not seem to be any clear narrative, nor a clear element of protest or clear political objectives.

'There may also have been some engagement by gangs, but in general this seems to have been opportunistic rather than organised and, on this occasion, appears not to have been a significant cause of the rioting and looting.

'Many people seem to have been drawn into criminal activity almost on the basis of joining in a big party and without any sense of the seriousness of the acts they were undertaking.'

The MPs call for the Government to speed up the process of reimbursing people for damages and to review whether the £15 victim's surcharge should be increased for future riots.

Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May said most rioters were hardened criminals driven by a desire for 'instant gratification'.

Youngsters blame poverty for riots

Young people believe poverty is one of the key reasons behind the August riots, according to a new survey.

Behind the Riots, a survey commissioned by The Children's Society, found most 13 to 17-year-olds and adults believed that a reason people became involved in the trouble that blighted the country was 'to get goods and possessions they couldn't afford to buy'.

The charity polled 1,004 adults and 1,077 13 to 17-year-olds from across the UK in an online survey between October 3 and November 10.
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Most 13 to 17-year-olds and adults believed that a reason people became involved in the trouble that blighted the country was 'to get goods and possessions they couldn't afford to buy', according to a survey

It said they gave a mixed picture overall, with most choosing more than one reason why the riots happened.

But 57 per cent of 13 to 17-year-olds and 66 per cent of adults thought people became involved to get goods and possessions they could not afford to buy.

Some 49 per cent of the teens and 63 per cent of adults thought they became involved 'just for fun'.

And 47 per cent of the youngsters and 53 per cent of adults thought they felt pressure to join in from others taking part.

Young people and adults surveyed - particularly 17 to 24-year-olds - felt children and young people would be viewed more negatively after the riots.

The report also found the majority of adults and children (51 per cent and 56 per cent respectively) believed the Government should be doing more to support young people since the riots.

It also showed one in seven children and young people thought they had fewer prospects for their immediate future following the riots, while 17-year-olds were most likely to cite Government cuts as a reason for the disorder, and also were most likely to say more Government support was needed after it (67 per cent).

The Children's Society's policy director Enver Solomon said: 'This research shows that Theresa May is out of step with the majority of children and adults in this country when she said the riots were about instant gratification.

'Most people believe that the riots were caused by a whole range of factors - and poverty and material disadvantage are at the heart of it.

'Material well-being cannot be overlooked as a significant issue affecting young people today.

'We know from our work that there is a significant link between a child's material deprivation and their overall life satisfaction.

'Clearly, tackling this is crucial to avoid further unrest among children and young people.

'It is equally worrying to see just how many children and young people, already battling very negative views of themselves as a group, felt perceptions of them had got worse since the riots.

'Our findings show that there is agreement between adults and children that the Government should be providing more support to young people.

'This sends a clear message to central and local government that the public would like to see more positive activities on offer to children rather than a reduction in out of school youth provision.'