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Britain: The Struggle Begins

LONDON, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Britain is sweeping up the physical debris from days of rioting that rocked the country earlier this month but the new Battle of Britain has just begun.

There “will be no complacency,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday. “And we will not stop until this mindless violence and thuggery is defeated and law and order is fully restored on all our streets.

“Responsibility for crime always lies with the criminal. But crime has a context. And we must not shy away from it.”

Rioting in Britain by mainly marauding youth began Aug. 6 in the North London area of Tottenham as a result of an earlier shooting of a suspected drug dealer and gang member by a special police unit.

It quickly spread – fanned by Twitter posts and messages – to virtually every point on the compass in the British capital.

It later erupted in other cities, such as Birmingham and Manchester. Not just economically depressed areas were hit, but also middle-class areas.

Shops were looted and burned, passersby assaulted, police pelted with rocks, bottles and anything else that came to hand.

Britain was ablaze as never before since the WWII bombing of Britain. The culprits included not only marginalized youths but also people such as a model, a law student, a millionaire’s daughter, children not even old enough to wear long pants.

All this occurred in a country with near cradle-to-grave social welfare government benefits.

“This is not about poverty, it’s about culture,” Cameron said in Parliament, “a culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities.

“In too many cases, the parents of these children — if they are still around — don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.

“The potential consequences of neglect and immorality on this scale have been clear for too long, without enough action being taken,” he said.

In the government’s “stick” approach in rioting aftermath, the nation’s courts have been encouraged to mete out incarceration for riot participation. The Justice Ministry said nearly two-thirds of 1,179 defendants appearing in court have been remanded in custody while awaiting trial. That’s a rate of about 65 percent compared to those held without bail for serious offences in 2010.

Local government councils are being supported in efforts to toss out tenants of subsidized housing whose resident family members took part in rioting; and there is talk of bringing back Borstals — juvenile detention facilities with a strong focus on providing troubled you with educational and market-place work skills.

Police, meanwhile, have been authorized to use rubber bullets and, on special approval, water cannons to quell future disturbances, and Cameron, although expressing personal hesitancy, hasn’t ruled out calling on the country’s army if future civil disorder overwhelmed police forces.

Reforms to the welfare system are also in the works. But Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, leads a coalition government whose Liberal Democrat Party partner has already cocked a collective eyebrow over suggested changes and tough-on-crime rhetoric.

Economics also comes into play. Britain, like other countries in economic doldrums, is trying to cut expenditures by curbing social programs. Although more forceful policing is widely accepted in Britain as necessary to curb violence, especially youth gang violence, the government still intends to cut the police budget by 20 percent.

“As I said …, there is no one step that can be taken,” Cameron said. “But we need a benefit system that rewards work and that is on the side of families. We need more discipline in our schools. We need action to deal with the most disruptive families. And we need a criminal justice system that scores a clear and heavy line between right and wrong.

“In short, all the action necessary to help mend our broken society.”

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

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