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Causes of the 2011 Riots: Criminological View and Public Narrative

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1709 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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This essay will look at the 2011 Riots and its journey through how it started with a young black male called Mark Duggan. I will explain about the Public Narrative, how the criminal professionals related to the 2011 riots and a section on the criminological perspective. The riots started 4th August 2011, when Mark Duggan was shot by Police officers in Tottenham after they ‘assumed’ he was carrying a weapon. Friends and family of Mark started a peaceful protest on the 6th when they were not happy with how the case had been handled. The protest soon got out of hand and by the 8th, outbreaks had spread across London, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool (Berman, 2012). 1

Part A)

The use of media and social network sites have massively grown and have become part of people’s everyday use. When the news of the riots broke out it quickly esculated and the media was highly involved and according to the Guardian it ‘was made worse’ by the pace at which it was spread. With all the attention it was receiving the riots were made high profile at the time and was reported about a lot throughout the news, twitter and Facebook. The use of how much the media was used was recorded by a panel set up by the government itself, they reported that the media fuelled a lot of the disorder that was happening in London and other surrounding cities. Although, the panel said that for future events, they may be able to use the media to their advantage to tackle any riots escalating (Halliday,2012). 2

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The media sparked lots of attention and according to Lewis and Laville (2011), the media – both the Evening standard and the daily mail stated that a police officer was shot first then Duggan which was cited by IPCC. This was false information that the media spread to the people. This led to a meeting held by the police which later resulted to the peaceful protest as a senior member of the police was not present. 3

The alleged failure by the IPCC to provide Duggan’s family and the local community with reliable information in the aftermath of his death was part of the reason the relatives protested outside the police station …. The peaceful demonstration later descended into rioting and looting that, within days, had inspired ‘copycat’ disorder across England (Lewis and Laville, 2011: 5).

By giving out this false information, the prime minister away on holiday and not even giving Duggan’s family and friends a senior member of the police, it gave people the ammunition that they already had towards the police and the government to start their own riots. What started as peaceful turned into people going out looting and causing criminal damage just because they could. Assumptions went around by the media that a large percentage of this was down to gang membership but was not backed up by the data, as only 13% of those arrested nationally said they had any part towards being a part of a gang (Berman, 2014). 1By making people believe this was largely populated by gangs it gave a scape goat for the government and the police.

Part B)

David Cameron spoke about how this is the biggest outbreak of social disorder in Britain in the last 30 years. Giving out strong disincentives to stop people from repeating riots in the future. Cameron put forward 16,000 police officers onto London streets, stating that stronger punishments plus civil punishments will help reduce and potentially remove the social benefits for those who are found guilty. Although the riots had stopped police continued to raid houses across London and furthering cities using aggressive force and arresting hundreds of people resulting in the returns of large amount of stolen property by doing this, it put fear out to people that it wasn’t over, and the crackdown on punishment was severe. 4 (2011)

Cameron put out a statement stating a stronger fightback, more police will be present and proper punishment would be enforced. (5) Not long after Cameron’s speech Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals service gave instructions that the local magistrates should neglect their normal sentencing which would be a short period of time and send them directly to the crown courts. This was their way of saying that they would no longer stand for anything and justice will be served to everyone no matter how petty the crime. 4 (2011)

Although the tough sentencing that was brought in helped put away hundreds of people, it also put away many that should not have necessarily gone. Nicholas Robinson, 23 years old, said he got caught up in the riots as many probably did, decided he was going to steal a case of bottled water from Lidls whilst walking to his girlfriend’s house. He was quickly caught by the police and was charged with six months’ imprisonment. Was it not for the fact Robinson had no previous charges and it was a low value item that he stole, he would have been sent to crown court for a higher sentencing. (6)

From the statistics there where over 5,175 offences that were recorded by the police, almost 4,000 of them were arrested by early September in 10 police force areas. (1) This was a huge stand by the police and government bodies on making sure that everyone had been punished for their actions, however by giving such high prison sentences to people, who either has never had a criminal recorded or did a low petty crime, it caused the prison population of England and wales to hit a high record of over 86,000 thousand people. Although governors warned that convicting so many in people it would put a strain on their ‘already stretched prison’.  (7)

Part C)

There are many different views to look at why the 2011 riots happened through a criminological perspective. The riots started off as peaceful but was soon joined by many more that it quickly turned violent. Professor Lawrence Sherman discusses the riots and the Police and how it is become much more complex for police to deal with. With the uprising in technology that was used in the riot, that helped spread with the use of texting. This is showing us the ever-growing society that we live in is forever changing, and with the use of the gadgets we now own, it is making it harder for the police force to do their job but at the same time making us hate the police for not doing their job properly. 8

In just over 4 days there was five deaths, countless injuries to police and civilians, also millions of pounds in damages. It included the role of gangs, looting and the high use of social media amongst other things that where wrote by commentators. Tim Newburn’s concern was with social and political events, how not only the its focused attention on the police but the courts themselves. People were being imprisoned for months for petty crimes as David Cameron wanted to set an example.

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Newburn looked at the riot in a historical point of view referring to the Brixton riots in 1981 and how they both bore a resemblance to the economic downturn, high levels of unemployment and a right of centre government boarding on a radical reform. The outbreaks may have been varied but the general thing they shared was poverty and race. Cherry Groce and Cynthia Jarrett was shot dead in a drugs raid in 1985, whilst there are differences, the reality is that the way the policing features leading up to both riots. (9)

The police have many different views from the public eye, from helping and keeping the peace to being someone we fear. In the riots the police were a big target as it all began with whether they sought out the best criminal justice for Mark Duggan. We have built up a pre-determined conception on how we view the police in relation to being racists from history repeating itself as Newburn explains to what the media feed us everyday.


1)      House of Commons Library (2014) The August 2011 riots: a statistical summary. Available at: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06099 (Accessed 6th November 2019)

2)      University of Cambridge (2012) The new police knowledge. Available at: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/the-new-police-knowledge (Accessed 10th November 2018)

3)      University of York (Date Unknown) Preliminary investigations and analysis of the riots of August 2011. Available at: https://www.york.ac.uk/media/sociology/curb/publications/Unrest16.pdf (Accessed 10th November 2018)

4)      http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/files/2012/08/London-Riots-20111.pdf

5)      https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-on-the-fightback-after-the-riots

6)      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8695988/London-riots-Lidl-water-thief-jailed-for-six-months.html

7)      https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/aug/18/prison-population-record-uk-riots

8)      Scarman, Lord Justice (1981), The Brixton Disorders 10-12 April 1981, Cmnd 8427. London: Home Office


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