Blackpoll, England — Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, speaking just hours after a window smashing rampage in the city of Leicester, today promised an “unstinting drive’ to punish rioters and said it must not be obscured by arguments about social deprivation.
Hurd’s remarks highlighted an emotional debate on law and order at this week’s annual convention of the governing Conservative Party. Two civilians and a policeman have been killed in the last month during riots that swept racially mixed sections of three major British cities.
In the latest incident, gangs of mostly white youths raged through the streets of Leicester, 75 miles north of London, smashing windows, looting and stoning police after a soccer game Wednesday evening.
Several police officers were slightly injured and at least five people were arrested before the rioting was brought under control early today, a police spokesman said.
Hurd, who said 662 rioters were arrested in London, Birmingham and Liverpool in the last months, pledged today, “There will be an unstinting drive to punish those responsible for these outrages on our streets.”
He promised new laws on disorderly conduct to strengthen police powers to control rioters and unruly soccer crowds.
Hurd acknowledged the government must “deal fairly and evenhandedly” with urban problems, noting more than $125 million has been spent in the past four years in deprived inner city areas of the three affected communities.
“But public expenditure is not a remedy for crime, and let no one deceive you otherwise,” he said. “The task of bringing criminals to justice must not be complicated and obscured by arguments about other matters.”
Wednesday’s disturbance in Leicester was probably sparked by intense partisan rivalry between fans of Leicester City and Derby, whose Milk Cup match ended in a 11 tie, a police spokesman said.
After the match, Derby fans were escorted without incident to trains and buses, a standard procedure recently because of frequent soccer related violence.
About 100 Leicester fans then went “on the run,”
Randomly smashing windows in the city center, the spokesman said.
Police rushed to the scene as the gang made its way to the High fields section, a minority neighborhood on the east side. The spokesman said the gang overturned several cars, set them ablaze and pelted police with rocks and bricks.
Youths also hurled firebombs at police in the St. Peter’s housing estate and looted a supermarket, the spokesman said. A fire broke out in a pharmacy, apparently sparked by a gas leak after the window was broken, the spokesman said.
The disturbance came three nights after the worst rioting in modern times in mainland Britain erupted in London’s Tottenham section. A police officer was killed and 243 other people injured in street battles. Those riots were sparked by the death of a black woman who collapsed during a police search of her home. The woman had a heart condition.
Article extracted from this publication >> October 18, 1985