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Riot report reminder

Riots across England in August 2011 lasted for five days in total. Five people lost their lives and hundreds more lost their businesses and homes. There was widespread arson and looting. A panel set up by the Government estimates that the total cost of the riots will be more than half a billion pounds. To read the report in full visit the panel website.


On Thursday 4 August 2011, Mark Duggan was shot by police officers in Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale, London. The incident was immediately referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. On Saturday 6 August, the family and supporters of Mr Duggan, numbering around 120, marched from the Broadwater Farm estate to Tottenham police station to protest about the shooting.

It was a peaceful protest but, later in the evening, violence broke out. By the early hours, rioting had spread to nearby areas. By Sunday 7 August the riots had spread to 12 areas within London and by Monday 8 August, the riots had spread nationally and eventually 66 areas experienced rioting.

As the panel says, in August 2011, England saw significant and widespread public disorder. Television viewers watched news coverage of looting, violence, arson and vandalism on a scale which shocked and traumatised communities and the country as a whole. Five people lost their lives and hundreds more lost their businesses and homes.

Much has already been said about the riots, their causes and the response. During the course of our work, we talked directly to the victims and communities who have been affected. We were moved by the stories we heard of human loss, fear and abandonment as a result of the riots. We were also struck by the level of community spirit demonstrated in the aftermath.

In this report, we set out the events that took place over those five days in August, reflecting the experiences of those affected. We have aimed to tackle some of the myths that have been established about the cause of the riots.

On visits and through our discussions with communities and victims, we have discovered widespread levels of anxiety and anger about the ‘mindless’ nature of the riots and the level of criminality. We have also noted a collective pessimism about the future. We were shocked by the number of young people we spoke to who had no hopes or dreams for their future.

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of young people did not riot. It was heartening that so many people, including significant numbers of young people, came out to clean up their streets. Through their resilience, hope and optimism they reclaimed their communities.

There was no single cause of the riots and there is no single solution. This report is intended to prompt discussion about every aspect of the riots. It will generate ideas from which we will develop recommendations which will appear in our final report. We hope everyone who reads this report will want to work with us to develop proposals to address the fundamental challenges we face as a society.

It is thirty years since the publication of the Scarman report. We are clear that a huge amount has changed for the better and the riots in August bear no relation to the disturbances in 1981. However, it is a sad fact that in some respects, the underlying challenges are strikingly similar.

Will riots happen again? The answer is quite possibly ‘yes’. This is why we need to work together to develop ideas which deal not only with the symptoms of the riots but with the deep-seated causes of dissatisfaction beneath.

Now must be the time for leaders, national and local, to commit to build strong, resilient and thriving local communities where no one feels the urge to take such destructive action ever again.


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