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Sikh to head panel to hear from communities hit by UK riots

world Updated: Sep 04, 2011 19:26 IST

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Darra Singh, a prominent Sikh social worker in Britain, will head a panel that is tasked to ask "difficult, searching questions" into the causes of the recent English riots.

Announcing the formation of the panel, British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, during a visit to Tottenham where the first riots began last month, said that a proper analysis of the causes of the outbreaks of violence and looting across the country was essential.

"The August riots were on a scale that many people have never seen in this country. I saw devastating scenes of burned out shops and houses in neighbourhoods around the country. I met traumatised families who no longer had homes," he said.

The four-member panel headed Singh will hear from communities affected by rioting may take evidence from those who carried out the violence.

Singh, currently chief executive of JobCentre Plus, a government employment agency, said he had "not ruled out" speaking to offenders about their motivation.

Singh - a former chief executive of Ealing and Luton councils - will step down from his role at JobCentre Plus at the end of September to concentrate on leading the panel. Ealing had suffered badly in the riots.

He said he wanted it to give a voice to residents, business owners, police and probation officers, and others affected by the riots, many of whom he said would have a view about their causes.

Asked whether he would take evidence from those convicted of rioting or looting, he told the BBC: "That is an issue that we will be looking at fairly quickly.

"What we will do is structure our approach so that everyone who wants to give us a view can do."

The panel will deliver its early findings by November and a final report is expected in March 2012.

Clegg has said the panel must ask "difficult, searching questions" about what happened in London and other English cities during August 6-9 which killed five people.

Rioting and arson erupted in Tottenham on August six following the shooting dead of a local man by London police.

Unrest then spread over subsequent nights to 22 out of London's 33 boroughs, from Ealing in the west and Croydon in the south, and to other English cities like Birmingham and Manchester.

The independent communities and victims panel will consider why riots broke out in certain areas, what motivated those who took part, and how key public services, including the police, worked to deal with them.

It will also consider what drove people to stand up to rioters in their area or to clean up after the events had taken place - and how communities can be made "more socially and economically resilient" in order to prevent future problems.