London courts charge hundreds over riots

Almost 600 people appear in court over unrest, as police chief defends force's handling of riots in the British capital.



    Courts in the London have charged almost 600 people with violence, disorder and looting over riots earlier this week.

    Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said people in the city wanted to see "significant sentences" handed out to the guilty.

    Police have arrested a 22-year-old man in West London on Friday in connection with the death of an elderly man who sustained injuries as he tried to stamp out a fire started by rioters in Ealing.

    Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, succumbed to head injuries after he was rushed by ambulance to a west London hospital on Thursday.

    Across the country, more than 2,000 people have been arrested over the disorder that spread through several cities in the country.

    David Cameron, the prime minister, has vowed "swift justice" for perpetrators, and courts were struggling to cope with a flood of defendants.

    Courts in London, Birmingham and Manchester stayed open through a second night to deal with hundreds of alleged offenders.

    Police hit back

    The riots began last Saturday two days after police shot dead a 29-year-old black man, Mark Duggan, in Tottenham.

    LIVE BLOG: UK RIOTS

    Click here for our continuing coverage

    Hundreds of stores were looted, buildings were set ablaze.

    Four other deaths that took place amid the rioting are being investigated by police.

    A man was found shot in a car in Croydon and three men in Birmingham were run down by a car as they defended their neighbourhood.

    Police are questioning three suspects on suspicion of murder over the Birmingham incident.

    Officers, meanwhile, have hit back against claims they were too soft in their initial response to the disorder.

    Cameron said officers had been overwhelmed at first, outmanoeuvred 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".

    Tim Godwin, acting commissioner of London's Metropolitan police, said: "I think after any event like this, people will always make comments who weren't there."

    More police officers were drafted in on Tuesday, with 16,000 taking control of London's streets - almost three times the number of the night before.

    Cameron said the extra officers would remain on patrol through the weekend.

    Teenage ballerina

    The alleged looters and vandals included an 11-year-old boy, a teenage ballerina and a university English student from a prosperous commuter town.

    IN VIDEO

    Jacky Rowland reports on why youths are rioting in the UK

    Natasha Reid, a 24-year-old university graduate, admitted stealing a TV from a looted electronics store and her lawyer said she had turned herself in because she could not sleep for guilt.

    A judge told her she would probably go to jail when she is sentenced later.

    Britain's parliament was called back from its summer break for an emergency debate on the riots on Thursday, with Cameron promising authorities would get strong powers to the violence  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.

    The opposition Labour Party has said the violence showed that planned cuts to police budgets, and the consequent decrease in the number of officer numbers, should be scrapped.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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