British Prime Minister David Cameron has unveiled measures to end the country’s worst riots in decades, and said the army could be called in to quell the violence, which claimed its fifth fatality yesterday.
As a police crackdown and heavy rain prevented a fifth night of chaos, Cameron told an emergency session of parliament he would give police extra powers, including the ability to order youths to remove face coverings.
London police announced yesterday that 68-year-old Richard Mannington Bowes had died in hospital after he was attacked while trying to deter looters in the west London district of Ealing on Monday.
Cameron said that a year before London hosts the Olympics, Britain needed to show a more positive face to the world after the riots in which dozens of buildings have been torched.
“We will not stop until this mindless violence and thuggery is defeated and law and order is fully restored on all our streets,” he told lawmakers. “We need to show the world, which has looked on frankly appalled, that the perpetrators of the violence we have seen on our streets are not in any way representative of our country — nor of our young people.”
Anyone whose property was damaged will be compensated, Cameron added.
Britain is still reeling after four of the worst nights of rioting in decades, which started in London then spread to other English cities, including Manchester and Birmingham.
The riots started on Saturday, sparked by anger over the shooting by police of a 29-year-old man, Mark Duggan, in the deprived north London district of Tottenham.
Cameron, who cut short his holiday to deal with the crisis, said initially that “simply far too few police were deployed onto the streets.”
Police had treated it as a public order situation instead of criminality, he said.
However, he disclosed for the first time that he and senior security officials had discussed calling out the military to help, and said they were examining the possibility that curfews could be used to curb future violence.
“It is my responsibility to make sure that every contingency is looked at — including whether there are tasks that the army could undertake that would free up more police for the front line,” he said.
Those included “some simple guarding tasks,” but he added this was “not for today, it is not even for tomorrow, it is just so you have contingency plans in case it becomes necessary.”