Thursday, August 11, 2011

Disturbances in Southwark

Monday night's disturbances and criminal behaviour in Southwark was truly unacceptable and sickening. There was no justification for what we saw, and indeed none of those involved in the rioting and looting appeared to putting forward any political justification for what they were doing. It was base criminality.

Over the past two days I have been speaking to residents and businesses who have been affected by the events of Monday night. Some of the most disturbing stories came from shop owners and managers on the Walworth Road. I was told about the mother who was sending her child through the broken small window of one shop to loot items from inside. Another told me how they found it galling that people were coming in to commiserate with the shop after Monday's looting having recognised that same person from CCTV images as having been one of the looters.

People who have been involved in the looting will be brought to justice where there is evidence against them. My colleague, Cllr Ian Wingfield has already announced that the Council will use all of the powers we have to evict those who are convicted of being involved in Monday's looting from any council house where they have a tenancy. This is what the vast majority of our community would wish and expect.

It is clear that there is something very wrong in our society where given the opportunity people fall into this level of criminality and lawlessness. In Southwark one of our key messages as an administration has been that we truly value our young people and want them to fulfil their potential and aspirations. But it seems that this message is not getting through to some - or if it is getting through is having no impact.

There are lots of reasons for what happened on Monday night in Southwark. It would be foolish of me to pretend that I have all of the answers at this point. But it is clear that those answers lie in our homes, our schools and our communities - and that those answers are not easy. It is certainly about restoring respect and clear boundaries.

In the coming weeks and months our community in Southwark needs to have a proper conversation- exploring what we can all do to fix some of the problems; to identify those boundaries, and to agree our collective code of behaviour - our expectations of each other in order to ensure that we have a society in which we can all properly co-exist in the future.

In the short-term we need to make sure that law and order continues to be maintained on our streets - and that we never get to a point where the police are again helpless bystanders to mass criminal conduct. And we need to ensure that the businesses who have been hurt and affected by Monday night and the loss of trade since are properly helped and compensated.

Some big tasks ahead, but I am confident that the people of Southwark are equal to the task.

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