Tag Archive: looting


The Chair of Camberwell Green Magistrates Court, Novello Noades, claims that her court has been given a government “directive” that anyone involved in the rioting be given a custodial sentence. This follows David Cameron’s speach to The Commonons in which he said: “anyone involved in the riots should expect to go to prison”. However: Sentencing is a matter for the ‘independent’ judiciary under British Law.  

Magistrates are being advised by the courts service to disregard normal sentencing guidelines when dealing with those convicted of offences committed in the context of last week’s riots.

The advice, has resulted in cases that would usually be disposed of in magistrates courts being referred to the crown court for more severe punishment and sentences for offences that would otherwise have attracted a far shorter term.

In Manchester a mother of two, Ursula Nevin, was jailed for five months for receiving a pair of shorts given to her after they had been looted from a city centre store. In Brixton, south London, a 23-year-old student was jailed for six months for stealing £3.50 worth of water bottles from a supermarket.

The Crown Prosecution Service also issued guidance to prosecutors on Monday, effectively calling for juveniles found guilty of riot-related crimes to be named and shamed. Those dealt with in youth courts are normally not identified. The youngest suspects bought before the courts last week in connection with the riots were an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

The sentencing advice from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service came to light after the chair of Camberwell Green Magistrates Court, Novello Noades, claimed that the court had been given a government “directive” that anyone involved in the rioting be given a custodial sentence.

HMCTS explained that they had advised magistrates to consider disregarding normal sentencing guidelines. It said: “Magistrates in London are being advised by their legal advisers to consider whether their powers of punishment are sufficient in dealing with some cases arising from the recent disorder- and that thos cases should be referred to Crown Courts.

The HMTCS continued: “Courts can therefore consider the riots as an aggravating factor in any offence, making stealing from looted shops more serious than conventional shoplifting”.

Last week David Cameron told the recalled House of Commons that anyone involved in violent disorder should expect to go to prison. The Ministry of Justice denied that it had asked the HMCTS to issue their advice.

The Judicial Communications Office, which issues statements on behalf of judges, also dismissed suggestions it had been involved. “The senior judiciary has given no directive in relation to sentencing for offences committed during the recent widespread public disorder,” it said.

Magistrates can only sentence offenders to up to six months in prison for a single offence. The chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, John Thornhill, has been pressing the government to raise the maximum sentencing power of magistrates to 12 months. “Many of these cases would have been dealt with more expeditiously and cheaper if we had the 12-month sentencing powers,” Thornhill said. “They would not have needed to be sent to the crown courts.”

In its advice on identifying youths, the CPS said: “We have issued guidance to prosecutors that states they should ask the court to lift the anonymity of a youth defendant when they believe it is required in the public interest that the youth be identified. Legislation permits the court to do so after conviction. These representations will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Among those appearing before City of Westminster magistrates court on Monday was Wilson Unses Garcia, 42, of Walworth, south London. He was jailed for six months for receiving stolen property: two tennis racquets worth £340 looted from a sports shop in south London. When police searched his property they found the racquets still in wrapping and with price labels on them.

Garcia said he had had the racquets for some time. Police said he later told them: “I knew it was not right the minute they put them into my hand.”

His solicitor told the court that Garcia, who pleaded guilty, had not participated in looting, did not agree with the rioting and had accepted the racquets from a man he knew only from his first name as payment of a £20 debt.

Alicia Wilkinson, 22, was discovered with a vast amount of stolen guitars, televisions and hair braiding equipment when police raided her home in Outram Road, Croydon, at the weekend.

In Defence Of Our Communities

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) has been passed Unison’s publi statement on the London riots, released yesterday. We congratulate Unison in speaking up and republish their statement below.

From last weekend there has been rioting and looting spreading across London. People in working class communities have looked on with fear as riots destroyed local shops and left some people homeless. Clearly we don’t support opportunistic looting or for acts of random violence. However, if we are to avoid a return to the social unrest and public disorder seen in the 1980s, this demands a response from our community and its leaders which goes beyond mere condemnation.

Why are our young people so angry and how can we unite our community?
The police.
The police killing Mark Duggan, acted as a spark for the recent riots. This was not an isolated incident. Since 1990 320 people have died in police custody (or following other forms of contact with the police). Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation, especially of young black men. In the student protests we saw violence used routinely against political protestors, including school students.

Tory cuts destroying our communities.
The deliberately savage reductions in public spending imposed upon our communities by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair.

In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; Connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

Lambeth Council have announced their intention to cut £76million from their budget in the next 3 years. This includes reducing adventure playground opening hours to weekends and holidays only; £1.45 million cut from Youth Centres and Holiday activities; Children’s social care cut but by £3.5million, deep cuts in the Connexions service with opening hours halved, and cuts in Buildings Schools for the Future; alternative education provision (Closing OLIVE School and cutting back Park Campus), and cutting the Young & Safe project which aims to reduce youth crime.

At the same time last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion. The wealthy bankers whose conduct caused the economic crisis continue to be rewarded with multi-million pound bonuses, while the jobs and pensions of public sector workers – the people dealing with the aftermath of the riots today – are under threat.

What needs to be done?
In order to avoid further riots two things are necessary. First, our police service must become transparently accountable to the communities it serves. There is legitimate and longstanding community concern about deaths arising from police action, and action to address this concern must not get lost in the cacophony of condemnation following the riots.

Secondly, the Government must reverse the disproportionate reductions in local government spending imposed upon Inner London so that we can maintain the social infrastructure which gives our young people a stake – and a voice – in our society. If the Government will not do this, then the responsibility falls upon Labour-led local authorities in London to represent the interests of their electors by fighting, with all means at their disposal, for the resources necessary to provide the vital services which sustain the cohesion of our communities.

The answer does not lie in David Cameron’s “Big Society” or Lambeth’s own “Co-operative Council” but in the defence of public services from a reckless attack by a Government which is indifferent to the social damage being wrought by their economic policies, some of the consequences of which have now been played out on the streets of London.

Lambeth Council needs urgently to review cuts already agreed and being made in services to young people in particular if we are to avoid further disorder and damage to our diverse, vibrant and tolerant community.

UNISON calls for an organised defence of public services and our communities, led by trade unions and community organisations and pledges to support a public meeting in Brixton in the next few days to discuss how to build this campaign.
A MUST READ:  Statement By Workers Power on the London Riots

Even the New York Times’ support for the TNC “Libyan Rebels” is wavering it seems.
Below is a report by C.J. Chivers of the NYT. published July 10th.

Looting and Arson in Qawalish The village of Qawalish sits on the rolling high ground of the mountains of western Libya, a small collection of houses, shops and a mosque astride a single two-lane asphalt road. By the time the fighters opposed to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had chased away pro-Qaddafi forces last week, the battle for this tiny place, all but unknown by outsiders until that day, had provided several scenes that offered insights into how the rebel campaign is being conducted here.

Like those elsewhere in Libya, the fighters here share a sense of common purpose: the belief that their uprising represents a long-awaited chance to topple an ossified, brutal and corrupt regime. But also like that of rebels in the east, their performance on the battlefield is uneven, often unnerving, and at times at odds with the interests of their cause. All of this emerged in the kaleidoscopically mixed picture they presented as they pressed forward last week.

In Qawalish, rebel bungling and crime played out beside pockets of militarily impressive behavior. And then matters turned worse. Ultimately, the contradictory scenes along a single stretch of road underscored a shortage of strong commanders at the front, or at least of commanders who adhered to the pledges of the National Transitional Council, the de facto rebel authority, to respect human rights and the laws of war. And this raised worrisome questions.

Minutes after Qawalish fell last Wednesday, none of the village’s residents remained. They had bolted. There were signs, however, that until the rebels had arrived, at least some villagers had been present. The bazaar was still stocked with fresh vegetables, as if it had been working while the pro-Qaddafi forces held the town. The bakery had loaves of fresh bread. And little in the town appeared to have been disturbed as the town changed hands. Then the storm hit. The rebels began helping themselves to the fuel in Qawalish’s only gas station. Then an armed rebel wheeled about the road on a children’s bicycle he had apparently just taken from a home. A short while later rebels were shooting padlocks off the metal doors to shops, and beginning to sweep through them.

At the time, rebels said they were carefully searching and securing the town. But their behavior soon raised questions, including: Was something besides military necessity taking hold? The next day the questions became more pressing. Houses that had not been burning the previous day were afire, and shops were being aggressively looted by armed men in rebel attire. Every few minutes, a truck would pass by on the road, headed back toward Zintan loaded with what seemed to be stolen goods. Animal feed appeared to be a favorite item to carry off. Several trucks an hour carried away bales of hay and sacks of grain.

The rebels at the checkpoints at the town’s edge did nothing to stop any of this. The town, in short, was being looted by the rebels, and vandalized, and worse. The destruction was not total — five of the town’s scores of houses were on fire. But what would their owners think? And what kind of message was being sent to the people of this town? One eerie aspect of life now in western Libya is the number of villages near the front where no civilians are present, even weeks after falling to rebel hands. This is not exactly a novel sight for a continuing, fluid war. In some cases, the emptiness would seem to be related to infrastructure and scarce supply. Shortages of food and water, a lack of electricity — these are conditions that discourage the return of families who fled.

In other cases, the risks of incoming high-explosive rockets from the Qaddafi forces can keep much of a population away. But support for the rebels is not full-throated and uniform in several mountain towns — the village of El Harabah still flies the green flag of the Qaddafi government, for example. And there is a fair question here, after watching the rebels damage Qawalish and steal its residents’ possessions, about whether suspicions about villagers’ affiliations and tribes have given life to rebel crimes, which in turn have caused civilians to flee. Researchers from Human Rights Watch have been roaming the abandoned villages of the mountains, trying to answer these very questions; their findings could be released as soon as this week.

There are tantalizing clues that factional rivalries are in play — the sort of social kindling that could make the ground war uglier as it nears Tripoli, Libya’s capital, where more people who have enjoyed government patronage have their businesses and homes. One of the buildings being looted in Qawalish late last week bore a scratched-on label in Arabic. “Mashaashia,” it read. This was a tag indicating the presence of a tribe that has enjoyed the support of the Qaddafi government, and that rebels say is in turn the source of many pro-Qaddafi soldiers.

Had the rebels helped themselves to shopkeepers’ goods because they believed they were wrongly aligned? As one house burned inside near the road and rebels openly stole from the town’s few stores, the question by late last week was whether what was happening was the opportunistic looting of an inexperienced quasi-military force, which was suffering the same shortages as everyone else, or something punitive and potentially much worse. Either behavior would be a crime under any notion of modern law, though the first might not set into motion long-term grievances while the second might be taken as an indicator that as this war smolders on, the possibility of unleashing bitterness between tribes and Qaddafi-era political factions grows each day.

By Sunday evening, the rebel license to loot had run almost its full course, and any such distinctions were fast slipping away. All of the shops in the town had been ransacked, several more homes were burned, and the town’s gas station, in fine condition when Qawalish fell, had been vandalized to the point of being dismantled. In building after building, furniture was flipped over, dishes and mirrors shattered, and everything torn apart.

Except for a few rebels roaming the streets in cars and trucks, the town was deserted — a shattered, emptied ghost town decorated with broken glass. Fully sorting out the motivations behind what happened in Qawalish would take more time. Multiple victims and participants in the looting and the arson would have to be found and interviewed separately to gain a credible sense of whether Qawalish’s residents had been targets because of their tribal or other affiliations, or, almost as important, whether the residents believed they had. But for now, none of the villagers could be found. And the rebels were hardly talking. What was obvious and beyond dispute by Sunday was only this: Whatever their motivation, the behavior of rebels in Qawalish, who have been supported by the NATO military campaign against Colonel Qaddafi, was at odds with the NATO mandate to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and at odds with rebel pledges to free and protect the Libyan population.

Moreover, the leadership of the Free Libyan Forces, for all the statements otherwise, appeared to lack the ability or inclination to prevent these crimes. When asked on Sunday about the looting and arson, the former Qaddafi military colonel who commands fighters in the mountains, Mukhtar Farnana, had little to say beyond being careful to insist that any looting was not officially sanctioned. “I haven’t any idea about that,” he said. “We did not give an order or information to do it.”

The problem could be framed another way: that the rebel commanders did not do enough to stop it. In a small town like Qawalish, what happened was, from a military perspective, preventable. A standing post or a few patrols each day to the shops, a checkpoint or two at the town’s edge with fighters checking identification, instructing their colleagues not to steal and stopping cars departing the town with stolen goods — these might have been enough. Instead, the capture of Qawalish has shown that as the war grinds through its fifth month, the rebels, emboldened by NATO support and fired with the certitude that now is their time, risk suspending the distinction between right and wrong.

As the rebels talk of pushing toward Tripoli, they risk embarrassing their backers, losing international support and fueling exactly the kind of war they have insisted they and NATO would prevent. The rebels say they plan to push further through the mountains soon, toward the city of Garyan. Will the villages along the way suffer Qawalish’s fate?