|Page (1) of 1 - 08/12/11||email article||print page|
London police say nearly 600 charged over riots, as courts dispense swift justice
LONDON (AP) ' Police in London said Friday they have charged almost 600 people with violence, disorder and looting over deadly riots in Britain's capital.
Across the country, more than 1,700 people have been arrested. Courts in London, Birmingham and Manchester stayed open through a second night to deal with alleged offenders.
Hundreds of stores were looted, buildings were set ablaze and several people died amid the mayhem that broke out Saturday in London and spread over four nights across England.
Victims include three men in Birmingham run down by a car as they defended their neighborhood. Police are questioning three suspects on suspicion of murder.
And detectives opened a murder inquiry after a 68-year-old a man found in a London street after confronting rioters died of his injuries late Thursday. A 22-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of murder.
Police, meanwhile, hit back against claims they were too soft in their initial response to the disorder.
Prime Minister David Cameron said officers had been overwhelmed at first, outmaneuvered by mobile gangs of rioters. He said "far too few police were deployed onto the streets. And the tactics they were using weren't working."
That changed Tuesday, when 16,000 officers were deployed on London's streets ' almost three times the number of the night before. Cameron said the extra officers will remain on patrol through the weekend.
Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, acknowledged that police had faced "an unprecedented situation, unique circumstances" ' but said it was police themselves, rather than "political interference," that got the situation under control.
"The more robust policing tactics you saw were not a function of political interference," he told the BBC. "They were a function of the numbers being available to allow the chief constables to change their tactics."
Britain's Parliament held an emergency debate on the riots Thursday, with Prime Minister David Cameron promising authorities would get strong powers to stop street mayhem from erupting again.
He said authorities were considering new powers, including allowing police to order thugs to remove masks or hoods, evicting troublemakers from subsidized housing and temporarily disabling cell phone instant messaging services.
He told lawmakers that he would look to cities like Boston for inspiration, and mentioned former Los Angeles, New York and Boston Police Chief William Bratton as a person who could help offer advice.
Bratton said in a statement he'd be "pleased and honored" to provide services and counsel in any capacity, adding that he loves London and has worked with British police for nearly 20 years.
Cameron also said the government, police and intelligence services were looking at whether there should be limits on the use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook or services like BlackBerry Messenger to spread disorder.
BlackBerry's simple and largely cost free messaging service was used by rioters to coordinate their activities, Cameron's office said.
Any move to disable the services temporarily is likely to be strongly opposed by civil libertarians.