Social media users have been sharply criticised by the Chief Constable of the West Midlands for making false claims about the Birmingham riots in August.

Chris Sims said 95 per cent of information published on sites like Twitter and Facebook turned out to be untrue.

Mr Sims told a police authority meeting that he agreed social media had an important role to play in keeping people informed, but most of the comments published as disturbances erupted across the city were completely false.

He said: “Suddenly we had in the public domain, in an uncontrolled manner, a mass of information that was completely unverified, impossible to source or understand its significance.

“Virtually every building in Birmingham burnt down, every shopping centre was trashed, all sorts of events were repeated on social media as fact when we knew these were not facts.”

Mr Sims confirmed that another another swathe of arrests is imminent as the search continues to bring rioters to justice after the unprecedented scenes of looting and vandalism that broke out across Birmingham.

Experts continue to sift through thousands of CCTV images of the disturbances and Mr Sims appealed to the public to help identify photographsof suspects on police and media websites.

There have been 644 arrests so far in the biggest West Midlands police operation since the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974.

Mr Sims said 83 officers were working full time on the investigation and the force would not rest until everything possible had been done to bring offenders to justice.

He added: “We are about to go into another arrest phase and you can expect further of these as we move forward.

“My intention is the investigation will continue until we reasonably think we can arrest no more people.”

The chief constable said there was little evidence the riots were pre-planned or gang-related.

He refuted suggestions that police should have been better prepared, arguing that the disturbances “came out of a clear blue sky”.

A claim from Birmingham city councillor Ernie Hendricks that it was always likely that high unemployment, rising crime and social tensions might boil over into violence in “a long, hot summer” was dismissed.

Mr Sims said: “As we got into August crime was falling sharply. But there is always stuff happening in the West Midlands.

“We are the second biggest force in the country, a big busy urban centre and there will always be things happening.

“But I don’t think you can look at socio-economic factors and say on the back of that we will deploy extra officers.”

The cost of the riots in police time, compensation and trade lost to city centre businesses is estimated at £25 million.

The total includes £5.4 million of insurance claims under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886, which West Midlands Police will have to pay.

A special ceremony to recognise the courage displayed by police officers and members of the public in attempting to quell the riots will be held at Birmingham University on December 8, Mr Sims revealed.