Theresa May has just said on the Murnaghan programme that she wants to look at ways of lifting anonymity for juveniles convicted of offences in the riots. Again, I think this is a bit of a red herring, that makes it look like something is being done, whereas it won’t actually make much difference… It’s fairly obvious that the kids involved weren’t thinking of the consequences.* And either they’re the sort of kids who will be totally traumatised by being arrested and appearing in court, or they’re the sort of kids who won’t. Publishing their names wouldn’t, I think, make much difference except to cement the idea in local minds that they’re “wrong ‘uns” which isn’t going to help sort them out. Unless the objective is to then free the media up to name and shame the parents too? Is that what it’s all about?
The Daily Mail, by the way, whilst technically respecting the anonymity of juveniles is publishing photos of them arriving at/ leaving court that I would think makes it very easy for people who know them to identify them. I’m not sure this is appropriate.
*Although, as I said in my Commons speech on Thursday, the YouTube clip of that young Malaysian student being robbed was the most powerful, most depressing image from the riots, the other image that has stuck in my mind is that of the looter posing with his ill-gotten gains: a bag of Tesco value basmati rice. I don’t know if he’s been arrested. If he is convicted he’ll probably get six months for it.
I find it incomprehensible on so many levels: he’s stolen something; he poses for a picture, to be posted online; he seems to think he’s being – at the risk of coming over all David Starkey – that there’s something gangsta about his exploits; but it’s a bag of rice…. It seems he doesn’t care whether he’s caught and he doesn’t particularly care what he’s looted either. (I’m not going to suggest he’s so poverty-stricken that what he really, really wants is a bag of rice…) It’s just all so pointless.
Two other thoughts while I’m at it… I think we really need decent information on the age profile of those involved in the riots and looting, because I think the press reports, with their focus on youth, are probably misleading. I also think the Government’s declared intent to crack down on gangs doesn’t seem to be borne out by the press reports of convictions… they don’t for the most part seem like gang members to me, ‘though I know that many of my colleagues who have spoken to police, for example in Manchester, are clear that there was a significant element of organised gang activity on the nights in question. Maybe the semi-professional criminals are better at not getting caught? Or maybe the press aren’t so interested?