BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron last night vowed that an extra 10,000 police would be sent on to the streets of London as three nights of rioting and looting claimed their first life.
As a 26-year-old man shot yesterday in his car in the south London suburb of Croydon died of his wounds in hospital, Mr Cameron warned younger rioters that “if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment”.
Speaking after a meeting of cabinet’s COBRA emergency committee, he said the 6000 police on London’s streets would be boosted to 16,000 as the nation braced for the fourth straight night of violence.
“People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding,” he said.
Recalling parliament for a special sitting tomorrow to debate the riots, Mr Cameron said he had been sickened by “scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing, attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews”.
“This is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated. It is quite clear that we need more police on the streets, and we need even more robust police action,” he said.
All police leave in London had been cancelled and help would be drafted in from police forces up and down the country.
Police said they could for the first time on the British mainland use plastic bullets to protect firefighters and ambulance officers.
At least 525 people have been arrested in three nights of rioting in London and a further 100 were arrested in Birmingham after the violence spread there, as well as to Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham. There have been so many arrests in London that all police cells are full and those arrested are being shipped to police stations outside the capital.
A woman in Croydon was filmed leaping from a burning building, one of dozens that have been torched by arsonists.
The youngest looter arrested yesterday was 11 years old and youth gangs from areas such as Hackney, Stratford and Brixton played a prominent role in clashes with police in more than 20 parts of the capital.
The violence began on Saturday after a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a suspected drug dealer in Tottenham last week but it has quickly spiralled into the most widespread lawlessness seen in Britain since the 1980s. The third day of clashes began when youths attacked a police car in a busy shopping street in Hackney, prompting confrontations with mounted police and police dog squads.
Steve Kavanagh, a deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, told the BBC the city’s centuries-old police force had been “stretched beyond belief in a way that it has never experienced before”.
Asked when he would consider bringing in the army, he said: “All options are being considered.”
Home Secretary Theresa May rejected calls from MPs from all major parties urging for water cannons to be brought in from Northern Ireland.
Several police suffered concussion after being hit in the head with bricks and three people were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after an officer was hit by a car in Brent, northwest London.
The violence led to the cancellation of an England vs Holland football match in London in anticipation of a fourth night of trouble, while the hotel where the England cricket team was staying in Birmingham ahead of a Test against India barricaded its doors.
The rioting came less than a year before the Olympics, and a visiting IOC delegation has been surprised by the extent to which London security officials were caught off guard by the rioting.