Thursday, 11 August 2011

Rain stopped play

I must admit that I was a little bit apprehensive about taking Raggs out for her evening walks these last few nights. Although Coventry seems to have escaped the rioting and looting as such, the speed with which it had spread had taken everyone I think by surprise.

Tuesday night, the local Police were out and about visibly in force in their patrol cars, evidently taking no chances. They'd advised parents to keep their kids indoors and off the streets, and I certainly didn't see as many as I'd have expected to on a pleasant summer evening during the school holidays. Last night there seemed to be somewhat fewer Police around, but it was just as quiet - almost spookily so as darkness fell and it started raining around 8.30. I came across a couple of groups of local people clearing up litter in their streets - not vandalism debris, just ordinary stuff - but an example perhaps of how the tide of public opinion is turning against the mindless destruction and how people are determined to 'do their bit' to counteract it? Maybe.

Undoubtedly, the rioters and looters had been on a roll everywhere: they must've thought they were unstoppable. That's largely fizzled out: now heavily outnumbered by the Police on the streets, rained on, and with most of the public against them, I can't see enough momentum building up again to cause anything like as much trouble as we saw on the news at the weekend.

We can't of course all protect our homes and businesses like the magnificent way in which the Sikhs in Southall did it: you don't mess with those guys! We rely on the Police, and then the Courts to do their bit. Following the Prime Minister's declaration that those responsible should go to jail, it was interesting that some Magistrates took him at his word and referred defendants to the Crown Court for sentencing. It was also interesting that many of those defendants didn't fit the stereotypical image of a disaffected alienated youth: a primary school mentor, postman, charity worker, lifeguard, scaffolder - some in their 20s and 30s. I did wonder about the 11-year old boy, though, complete with two mobile phones and a recent conviction and referral order for a previous but apparently unrelated offence. Why on earth we cling to this outmoded idea that "children" must be afforded the automatic protection of anonymity in Court for violent offences like these is beyond me. Hopefully some of the more hardcore offenders who have yet to be identified and traced will duly get their day in Court too.

The Prime Minister gave a 'tell it like it is' speech in Parliament: "... We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you" Almost Churchillian in tone, I thought: "... we will fight you on the beaches, we will fight you in the streets, we will never surrender" The rest of us can only hope that the actions match the words and that the message finally starts to sink in.

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