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18/8/11

17:18

Page 4

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Looting in St Anns Square, Manchester. Photo: Helen Clifton

LOCAL FEATURE

New police riot powers would be unenforceable


Plans to hand police new powers to deal with large-scale disturbances are unenforceable, one of the UKs leading experts on policing and public order has told The Big Issue in the North. In the aftermath of widespread rioting and looting across England earlier this month, the government last week proposed granting authorities power to enforce curfews and ban face coverings, and said it was considering whether to impose a block on social networks during future unrest. But Professor Jim Waddington, a specialist who has advised UK and US governments on law and order over a career spanning almost 50 years, said he doubted the viability of any new legislation. The idea that youre going to be able in those kinds of circumstances to
Waddington: unenforceable
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measures which take away the very same civil liberties they claim to be so keen to protect. But not all are opposed to the hard-hitting new measures the government has proposed. Professor Anthony Glees, an expert in security and surveillance at Buckinghamshire University, believes new legislation and tougher policing are the only ways to help prevent further mass disturbances. He said: Just as the rioters, looters and in some cases murderers were able to outfox the police by using social media and Blackberrys, its absolutely appropriate that we counterattack by destroying their ability to use these sorts of means of communication.

Judicial oversight
I think the government is absolutely right to say to the police that their softly-softly approach has been seen as weakness, and that cannot be. We know that GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] has made huge advances in being able to monitor and intercept communications from Islamist organisations. This same technology, this same strategy now has to be used to stop these riots happening again particularly in the run-up to the London Olympics. Both the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) declined to comment on whether they would welcome new powers. A spokesperson for GMP said: Our priority at the moment is to identify and arrest those involved in the riots. The Association of Chief Police Officers, a private limited company that leads the development of policing practice, said it has never advocated blocking of social networking websites. A spokesperson said: Enforceability and judicial oversight need to be looked at before any decisions are made.
RYAN GALLAGHER

impose a curfew, to require people to take facial coverings off, is highly implausible, he said. Its unenforceable. You could do it with a single individual but single individuals dont riot.

Precedents
Waddington, a former police constable who now heads the History and Governance Research Institute at the University of Wolverhampton, said rioting is not a new phenomenon and is not going to go away. He added: Wherever you look you find events of this kind. And whenever it happens we all get in to a fluster and say: Well, this is absolutely unprecedented. The truth of the matter is it isnt unprecedented. There are lots of precedents. It may be something we just have to learn to live with. Home secretary Theresa May said last week that without new policing measures society would continue to be blighted by high levels of crime, lack of respect for private property and contempt for community life. Prime minister David

Cameron told the Commons that the government was considering giving authorities powers to stop people communicating over social networking websites if they are suspected of plotting violence, disorder and criminality. Campaign group Big Brother Watch (BBW) has warned that although the government was right to call for tough action against looters, its plans could usher in a kind of populist authoritarianism.

Civil liberties
Daniel Hamilton, director of BBW, said: Restricting the ability of people to communicate via social networks, imposing curfews and outlawing the wearing of facemasks are tactics more reminiscent of Mubaraks Egypt than 21st century Britain. The police must be given the power to effectively do their jobs, including the ability to use force where necessary. Tougher sentences must also be imposed on those committing public order crimes. It is crucial, however, that the government does not adopt

THE BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH 22-28 AUGUST 2011