IT HAS been difficult to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper without hearing about this month’s horrific rioting in Britain. Watching from afar, whilst representing British interests in Slovakia, my heart goes out to the families and small business owners who have been harmed by these events. First and foremost, the behaviour of the persons involved in the rioting has been utterly appalling. Regardless of context, this is criminality, pure and simple, and the looting, vandalism, and gang behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated. The violence and depraved actions of these individuals are wholly unacceptable.
Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed that Britain will use all means necessary to restore law and order. Fortunately the country is well on its way to achieving this goal. When it became clear that more police were required on our streets and more robust police action was necessary, all annual leave within the Metropolitan Police was cancelled and 16,000 police were deployed to the streets of London, which had the desired effect across the capital. Copycat crimes began popping up in other British cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham. Hundreds of arrests have been made in these cities and police are working tirelessly to quell further incidents.
British government and law enforcement agencies are ensuring that the violence stops and that the police are equipped with whatever resources they need to restore order. To date [Ed. note: August 15] over 2,800 people have been arrested nationally, more than 1,100 have appeared in courts, and 808 of these have been charged. British courts remained in session around the clock and will continue to ensure that procedures and processes are accelerated and justice is served. I am heartened by the swiftness of this response, and bolstered even more by the efforts my fellow Brits have taken upon themselves to contribute to the restoration of order.
In many ways, these events have showcased the worst of Britain, but I also believe we’ve seen some of the best of Britain. Over a million people have signed up on Facebook to support the police in cleanup efforts, and entire communities are pitching in to help to restore a sense of normality and calm. Complacency has never been and will never be an option.
I hope that these awful events will not distract the world from the fact that the coming year is a big one for Britain: 2012 will mark the celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, and the Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. In terms of the Olympics, the focus of the government and everyone involved is to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy. The police and emergency services have substantial experience in terms of preparation for these major events, and also have major experience dealing with protests, both of the peaceful and law-abiding variety, and also the violent.
Lessons learned from this experience will invariably be taken into account with security preparations before and during the games. Tourism remains largely unaffected, and while many small business owners have been devastated by the events, Britain remains open for business and fully operational.
The British prime minister has expressed interest in calling upon other major cities with experience in combating gang violence, particularly in the US. He is consulting Bill Bratton, former New York City and Los Angeles police commissioner. This creates room for an international dialogue on how best to fight crime and preserve safety in our towns and cities, and I am bolstered by the moral support the international community has shown Britain in its time of need. There are times when Britain not only gives out advice and cooperation but is very grateful to also receive it. There are many lessons to be learned from this month’s shocking events. It is my sincere hope that in the future, these will not only be stopped, but prevented from happening in the first place.
Martin Kay is chargé d’affaires at the British Embassy in Bratislava
22. Aug 2011 at 0:00 | Martin Kay