12 months ago Birmingham was hit by widespread violence and looting. Crime Correspondent Nick McCarthy looks at the impact of the riots and how the authorities dealt with the aftermath
Bringing those involved in the riots to justice has been a massive task.
As well as those arrested during the actual looting, police had to create a whole task force to trawl through thousands of hours of CCTV footage.
Operation View has led to 773 arrests – 100 of which were made on the first night.
Of those arrested the Crown Prosecution Service brought cases against 339 riots suspects in the 12 months since the summer disorder, which have led to 276 convictions.
These criminals were sentenced to a combined 365 years in prison, with CPS chiefs defending the high penalties used.
West Midlands Chief Crown Prosecutor Harry Ireland said: “I think the sentences that have been handed down reflect the serious nature of what happened.
“The offences were taking place against the backdrop of huge civil disobedience.
“The events of those nights put ordinary people in fear of their lives.
“There was a huge mob-handed gang going around the city. And the sentences that have been handed down by the courts should act as a punishment but also a deterrent to anybody else.”
Last year’s disorder stretched the CPS to the limit and saw some prosecutors working through the night in special court sittings in Solihull and Birmingham.
Mr Ireland added: “They were exceptional circumstances.
“It was impossible to predict that the trouble was going to spread in the way that it did.”
Sector Crown Prosecutor, Martin Lindop, who has worked for the CPS for 19 years, was one of the lawyers who prosecuted cases throughout the night during the special 24-hour sittings at Solihull and Birmingham Magistrates.
At the time of the disorder Mr Lindop described the scale of the task as “totally unprecedented.”
This week he said: “We found there were people caught up in it. These were people who in the ordinary course of their lives would not dream of offending.
“There were middle-aged people who got caught up in the mob mentality of the event.
“It seemed like it was a feeding frenzy and that greed got the better of many of these people.”
“After the initial surge we came up with the process of prosecuting cases in batches of 20 or so at a time. We used the specific geographic locations to arrange the batches.
“It was not the most complex set of cases we have ever dealt with, but the numbers of cases were a challenge.”
Mr Ireland said the key to the convictions was high quality CCTV, which included some from the Armani store in the Mailbox, which had stock worth £500,000 stolen.
He explained that the CPS would be in a far better position to cope if the disorder was ever repeated.
He said: “There is now agreements in place between partner agencies like the police and the courts, which means we will be in a far better position to deal with it.
“I also hope that the public will now realise that they will spend a lot of time in prison if they get involved in something like this in the future.”
Even after the huge operation from police, there are still 143 riot suspects who are yet to be identified and caught.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said the force would be relentless in hunting them down.
He added: “We want to send a very clear message to the people who are still on the wanted list.
“They must be getting quite tired of looking over their shoulders by now.
“They are probably wandering if the next knock at the door is going to be us or if the loud bang in the morning is us coming through the front door.
“We will identify them no matter how long it takes.”
The huge operation to arrest rioters and looters was the biggest the force has mounted since the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.
“Policing those nights was certainly bigger than anything I have ever been involved in and I have been a police officer for 18 years.
“We faced multiple seats of disorder and we had a significant number of resources to command. It was very challenging because of the scale and seriousness of what we were faced with.
“What was really reassuring from our perspective was that all our officers came together supported by the public. They put themselves into the face of danger to serve and protect the public.
“We had officers who were cancelling rest days, their leave and coming back from their leave.
“They were working extended hours, sleeping on the floors and making sure that they were there to deliver that service to the public.
“It was also really reassuring to see the tremendous support from the public. I don’t just mean the information we got, which was fantastic, but they also walked up to us in the streets and shook the hands of officers to thank them for the job they were doing.
“It was reassuring to know that we had that level of support during such difficult and challenging times.”
Speaking about the length of sentences that have been handed down by the courts ACC Forsyth added: “We are the front end of the criminal justice system, but I think it is for the public to decide on how appropriate sentences were at court, it’s not a job for the police.
“The criminal justice system has shown its ability to deliver on and end-to-end basis. It has shown that we can deal really effectively and can build trust and confidence with our communities.”
2011 riots in numbers
* A total of 773 people were arrested by police.
* The CPS brought criminal cases against 339 riots suspects, securing 276 convictions.
* These criminals were sentenced to a total 365 years in prison.
* Police believe there are still 143 riots suspects yet to be identified and caught.
* The operation mounted by the police was the biggest since the 1974 pub bombings.
* 150 people received a special bravery award from West Midlands Police for their actions during the disturbance.
* West Midlands riot victims have claimed for nearly £4 million of losses from the government riot fund.
* So far just £728,000 has actually been paid out to 181 claimants.
* Across the UK the Riot Damages Act has paid out nearly £10 million.
Millions still to be paid out in compensation to the victims
West Midlands riot victims have claimed for nearly £4 million of losses from a government riot fund but only £728,000 has been paid out.
The victims were entitled to apply for cash from a fund administered by the West Midlands Police Authority, but only three quarters of the cash has been handed over.
More than £728,000 has been paid to 181 claimants but a further £3 million of claims from 76 businesses and individuals are ongoing or sitting with insurers.
A spokesman for the West Midlands Police Authority said: “Following the disturbances the Police Authority has received claims from insured and uninsured victims of the riots.
“The Police Authority continues to chase and pursue each an every claim to achieve settlement. There are 76 claims with loss adjusters or are ongoing. Two of these relate to uninsured claimants, and both claims have issues that require further investigation.
“All other claims by uninsured claimants have been paid, settled or approved. In the remaining cases, 74, where the claimants were insured, the Authority and Force are in dialogue with the insurers or their representatives.
“We expect to clear further claims in the coming weeks, but recognise that a number of claims will remain outstanding until that process is complete.”
One of the claimants received a payment in a matter of months.
Ajay Bhatia, who owns the Machan Express shop and cafe on Newhall Street, was left with a £9,000 bill when 70 thugs smashed through his shop and stole stock.
The 52-year-old father from Smethwick, said: “I can’t complain at all about the fund. I made an application and received a settlement within a few months. It was a massive help immediately after the riots.”
But Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, said: “It’s very disappointing and unfair to the victims to hear about these delays when we are talking about huge sums of money.
“The authorities need to start putting the pressure on to get things moving. If there is a problem with insurers, or unacceptable delays then that needs to be made public.
“Some of these businesses are struggling. It is disgraceful that they are continuing to suffer through no fault of their own.”
Police tweets dispelled the rumour mill
The riots saw West Midlands Police use Twitter as a tool to dispel myths and rumours before they led to even more chaos.
The use of social media saw the force Twitter account more than double its followers almost overnight as it battled to quash rumours about burning hospitals, police stations and mosques.
ACC Forsyth said: “Social media was a really effective tool for us both during the night and also in the day. We actually used it to great effect.
“We were monitoring things that were coming out and there were examples where things were circulating and had the potential to go viral.
“But we were quickly able to establish that it was incorrect and were able to communicate that. There was one where an officer who was inside a police station saw a tweet that said the police station was on fire. He was able to take a picture, post it online and then say no it’s not. There were occasions where a mosque was allegedly on fire in Coventry and the Children’s Hospital was on fire. We were able to get on there very quickly to quash it.
“We went from about 9,000 followers to more than 25,000 overnight. We are pleased that we have been able to sustain that since and we are now up to 38,000 followers and we have officers who tweet in their official capacity.
“It means we are getting strong engagement in the conventional forms but also via social media.”