Independent report on disorder

Published: 3 October 2011

An independent review into last month’s riot in Clapham Junction has found that the main motivation behind the disorder was criminal opportunism - some of it as a result of criminal organisation, some criminal disorganisation and some just opportunism. Eighty eight per cent of those so far arrested were already known to the police.

The independent report was commissioned by Wandsworth Council and is published today (Monday).

Its author, Neil Kinghan, a former Director General in the Department of Communities and Local Government asks why, when Wandsworth has been London's safest Inner London borough since 2003, Clapham Junction was the scene of some of the worst of the disorder that broke out across London and in other cities that night.

Across Wandsworth as a whole, 109 businesses were attacked. Many windows were broken, large numbers of televisions, other electronic goods, mobile phones, trainers and other sports goods were stolen, 25 businesses were seriously damaged and one shop was gutted by fire.

Contrary to many media reports, less than a quarter of those arrested so far have been under 18.

Mr Kinghan says: "The general sense was that the looters were intent on taking what they could, that there were elements of criminal organisation and of opportunism and that some who went along to see what was going on were drawn into the looting."

"My recommendations will I hope enable the authorities to learn the lessons of those events and take action where they can to reduce the risk of such events happening again."

The report notes that the disorder in Clapham Junction was remarkably well-recorded.

In identifying those involved, the police have been able to use the council's extensive CCTV network and camera systems operated by many of the shops and businesses attacked. They also have television footage, photographs taken by residents and notes of the registration numbers of the cars and vans used to take away stolen goods.

At the time the report was finalised there had been 153 arrests and 71 people had been charged with a variety of offences. The police estimate that around 450 people took part in the disturbances.

Of those arrested only 24 per cent are under 18 whilst a further 41 per cent range from 18 to 24. The total age range is 14 to 53. The vast majority (88 per cent) were already known to the police because they had been arrested previously.

The full report is available online. It provides a detailed commentary on all aspects of the events of early August and the authorities' response. It also outlines a range of other factors which help to explain why the disorder occurred in Clapham Junction and sheds light on the reasons why some people became involved but others did not.

The review's recommendations include:

  • an urgent review of the numbers of police with public order training
  • a review of the monitoring of social networks by the police
  • work with local businesses by the police
  • a relaunch plan for the area, to celebrate its recovery from the disorder and its potential for the future, in time for Christmas.
  • a long term programme of action by police and the council, both to bring to justice those responsible for criminal behaviour and to reduce the influence of the gangs on their areas.
  • full support from the council and the Government for a Family Recovery Programme in Wandsworth
  • programmes of community engagement with the ethnic and religious communities
  • work to build on the enthusiasm and community spirit shown by the broom army
  • improved information sharing within the council and with the police during emergencies
  • a review by the council of its emergency plan and support for front-line staff during emergencies.

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said: "I welcome this report and its findings. We set up this independent commission because we wanted to make sure that we learned all the lessons we could from the awful events that took place in Clapham Junction - and to a lesser extent in some of our other town centres.

"We have published this independent report in full so that members of the public, local businesses and others can study its findings and discuss its conclusions. We believe it is important that this whole process is transparent and open to scrutiny."

Mr Kinghan compiled his report after interviewing 61 people who were affected by the disturbances, including residents, shopkeepers and other business owners, local MPs, the borough's GLA member, Wandsworth councillors, council officers, the police and the fire and rescue service.

He also met the Battersea Residents Panel, two groups of young people in Tooting and Battersea and a group of youth workers.

He also held three public meetings in Battersea, Tooting and Wandsworth, which were attended by 180 people in total, and he also received 35 written responses to his invitation to the public for their input.