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UK PM vows crackdown as riots accused face court

world Updated: Aug 14, 2011 14:22 IST

AFP
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British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a "zero tolerance" crackdown on reckless thugs as two suspects were set to appear in court Sunday over the deaths of three men in the riots.

Cameron called the riots a turning point in British history as police, politicians and the public thrashed out what to do with the criminals behind an unprecedented wave of violence that rocked England last week.

The frenzy of looting, rioting and arson is "going to change things, definitely," Cameron said, describing it as "a huge event in the life of the nation."

Cameron has hired former New York police chief Bill Bratton to give advice on tackling gang culture as Britain searches for the best way to deal with its adrift underclass.

Bratton was a key figure in imposing "zero tolerance" policing in New York and cutting crime after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

"We haven't talked the language of zero tolerance enough, but the message is getting through," Cameron told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"If you leave the broken window, the shop gets looted again."

Cameron said some people were over-complicating explanations for the rioting.

"They were nicking televisions because they wanted a television and they weren't prepared to save up and get it like normal people," he said.

"The complicated bit is why are there so many, why is there this sizeable minority of people who are prepared to do this?

"It might be 100,000 deeply broken and troubled families... costing hundreds of millions of pounds for the country, they are completely dysfunctional, they need help and we are going to get in there and actually try and turn this around."

Hovever, senior British police figures are in no mood for lectures from politicians.

Scotland Yard acting commissioner Tim Godwin said there had been "inconsistency" from ministers over how tough the police were expected to be, following allegations of heavy-handedness in the G20 protests in 2009.

"The views we are hearing now are slightly different to those," he said.

More than 2,140 people have now been arrested, of whom around 1,000 have been charged.

Britain's top officer said he expected around 3,000 people to face the courts over the riots.

"We found that the scale and spread of the violence was and criminal behaviour was far greater than anyone could have imagined," Godwin said.

He said commanders would decide on Monday whether to scale down the surge of officers on London's streets, currently at 16,000.

And Hugh Orde, the head of the police chiefs body, said a home-grown policing model would be best for Britain, in an apparent swipe at the hiring of Bratton.

"I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them," he told The Independent on Sunday newspaper.

"It seems to me, if you've got 400 gangs, then you're not being very effective. If you look at the style of policing in the States, and their levels of violence, they are fundamentally different from here."

England has had four quieter days following the wave of violence which struck London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and several other cities.

So-called "shop a looter" campaigns, featuring websites and video screens showing people's faces, have proved successful in snaring suspects, as public revulsion to the riots continues.

Courts have been working through the night to process cases involving suspects, who hail from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds although around a fifth are under 18.

The unrest cost five lives and the first two people to be charged over the deaths were due to face court on Sunday.

Joshua Donald, 26, and a 17-year-old male who cannot be named for legal reasons were to appear at Birmingham Magistrates' Court charged with the murder of three men hit by a car while defending their neighbourhood against looters in Britain's second city.

Haroon Jahan, 20, Shazad Ali, 30, and his brother Abdul Musavir, 31, were killed early Wednesday by the entrance to a fuel station in Birmingham, central England.

In a phonecall with Cameron, US President Barack Obama congratulated Britain's handling of the riots, Downing Street said.

"President Obama commended the Prime Minister on the steadiness he, his government and the British police had demonstrated in handling the recent riots and shared the prime minister's hope that the situation would now continue to remain calm," a spokesman said.

Police also charged a man in his 20s with robbing a Malaysian student of his games console and mobile phone in a shocking incident that was watched by millions of people on the Internet.

Reece Donovan, from Romford, an east London suburb, was remanded in custody.

Victim Asyraf Haziq Rosli was filmed being helped up after his jaw was broken during unrest in Barking, east London, only for the men who aided him to then empty his rucksack.