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1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

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2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Friday, 12 August 2011

Riots and looting in England: who were they?

Following the disturbances in the London and elsewhere, the legal system is now beginning to uncover who the looters were. From details in the Guardian here the overwhelming majority (from 150 of the 500 cases that have so far come before the courts) are young, male and unemployed. The BBC also has details here and here.

There are, however, some looters who are in employment including a teaching assistant in a London school, an estate agent, a freelance journalist and a scaffolder. One can argue that the unemployed may have felt they had nothing to lose by looting but why does someone in work put their job at risk for so little short term gain – offences include the theft of a £300 TV? The law is likely to deal with them harshly with a prison sentence likely in many cases. A criminal record will probably have long term consequences.

Without condoning for a moment what they did, I have to wonder whether these people got caught up in the hysteria of the moment. Did they set out to riot and loot or did they just get caught up in events? Did they think of the consequences of their actions?

Assuming that these disturbances were not just an example of spontaneous combustion, have the ringleaders and instigators been caught or are those before the courts the followers?


Luc Charlier said...

You ask the right questions, Jim.
I would be very “soft” on the punishment of first-time offenders: as you say, one’s behaviour in a large crowd is often unpredictable. I attended Reading Music Festival around 1976, and Peter Gabriel – who had recently left Genesis – did a great gig, inviting Phil Collins on drums for the occasion. The set was splendid, the atmosphere very close to mass-hysteria and the organizers interrupted the show half-way the second “encore”, on behalf of running out of time for the next performance ! We all got mad and I, for one, found myself spitting, and yelling, and throwing everything at hand, not quite my “normal” attitude: a hooligan on the make.
On the contrary, I would be heavy-handed with proven “organizers” and recidivists. But you then need strong evidence.

Jean said...

I heard an interview with a couple of female looters, who thought it was a good lark, good fun and great to get something for nothing. When pressed for a deeper reason, they said it was against the government and the rich people.
The larking and good fun cost scores of people their livelihoods, some their lives, all of us no doubt increased insurance premiums and our reputation before the rest of the world - who now know we have a huge problem with youngsters who are out of control.
I don't think there is any room for being soft, or it will happen again before too long. If I want a new telly I wait until I can afford it but we now know that you only have to get a few mates together and it's yours for the taking. I will be surprised if all this huffing and puffing from the politicians actually punishes more than a small fraction of those involved.

Luc Charlier said...

Jean, the « strong arm of the law » makes for cruel outlaws.
I don’t advocate laxism, but sending absolute youngsters to jail only teaches them how to become real bandits. It is much more difficult for the police to lay their hands on the real “big guys”, but it is worth the effort. Same holds true with drugs.
Make “low jobs” a better paid activity, and make them available – I know THAT is easier said than done – and all will improve. Poverty and absence of education is the culprit, not the colour of the skin, the age or lack of authority. On the other hand, make sure all those who get some aid or another from public money HAVE to contribute a few hours a day to common well-being. It costs energy and manpower to ensure that, and it is not a big favourite with progressive minded people – I count myself amonst them, though - but the return would be astonishing. It has not been tried to any large extent.

Jim's Loire said...

Luc and Jean. Thanks for your comments. I think in this instance that many of the looters are likely to receive substantial sentences as the magistrates have referred many of the cases to Crown Court who can pass stiffer sentences.

Obviously we will have to see what the actual sentences given turn out to be.