Most those who took part in the rioting and looting that swept London and other cities of England this month are young and jobless men coming from some of the poorest districts of Britain, new research shows.
Data on the background of those who have appeared before judges since the August 6-10 riots show that 91% of the defendants are men and the majority under 25 years of age. Most of those arrested live in poor neighbourhoods, with a massive 41% living in the 10% most deprived parts of Britain.
And 66% of the neighbourhoods where the accused live got poorer from 2007-2010 — under the Labour government. Just 8.6% of the suspects have jobs or are students.
The findings, obtained by The Guardian on the basis of court papers, come as the media focuses on those suspects who are either in jobs or in full-time education — with one newspaper highlighting the case of a girl whose parents own a million-pound cottage in Kent. As is now clear, such suspects who are relatively well off are in a minority.
In what could be a related trend, British judges have been passing harsh sentences on the rioters. Teenagers and first-time offenders have been sentenced to six months in jail for stealing a bottle of water or packets of chewing gum.
Judges have been egged on by politicians. Prime Minister David Cameron said after one such conviction: “They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it’s very good that courts are able to do that.”