Riots which claimed three lives in Birmingham were motivated by a desire to steal – and a belief that the police could do nothing about it, the Government’s official inquiry has found.
Looters were prompted to take part after watching police fail to control disorder in London, concluding that the same would happen in the West Midlands.
In their first official report into the riots, the Riots Communities and Victims Panel said that rioters tended to be poor and many of the children involved had special educational needs.
But they added that apart from the initial riots in the London borough of Tottenham, prompted by the police shooting of 29-year old Mark Duggan, “evidence from people involved, eye-witnesses and the arrest statistics suggests that in most cases, the primary motivation for rioting was theft”.
The Riots Communities and Victims Panel was set up by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, to investigate the causes of August’s riots which led to the deaths of five people, including three in Birmingham.
It has published an interim report following an inquiry which included asking Birmingham residents what they thought had led to the violence, at a public meeting in Handsworth.
The study found that riots could cost the nation a billion pounds, including £300 million in claims for compensation, £50 million in policing costs including overtime, £30 million in lost high street sales and more than £500 million in lost revenue from tourism.
It warned that rioting across the country was encouraged by the police’s failure to tackle disorder in Tottenham on Sunday August 7.
“Those who rioted on Sunday were again felt to have been unchallenged and confidence among potential rioters in other parts of the country grew. By Monday, riots had spread nationally.
“Local policing decisions can lead to national consequences.”
The report added: “Rioters believed they would be able to loot and damage without being challenged by the police. In the hardest-hit areas, they were correct.”
However, the study also pointed out that rioters tended to be poorer than average, and four in ten adult rioters were on benefits. One in ten was receiving Employment & Support Allowance or Incapacity benefit, which are paid to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability.
Of children aged 17 or younger who took part, 46 per cent were living in poverty, nearly half, and 66 per cent had special educational needs.
Darra Singh Chair of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel said: “While deprivation is not an excuse for criminal behaviour we must seek to tackle the underlying causes of the riots, or they will happen again.”