Reading the riots

Event Date: 20 June 2012
Room B34
Birkbeck Main Building
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX

Law on Trial 2012: 18 June – 22 June 2012


Are effective justice and the fairness of the criminal process always in tension? This year’s Law on Trial will address this question, which has been brought into sharp focus by events such as G20 protests, and the riots of August 2011. Sessions will consider tactics used in the policing of protest, including ‘kettling’, two sessions on the riots in the UK and gang culture, and the use of stop and search and anti-terrorism powers. We shall also examine punitive responses to HIV and AIDS.

Law on Trial provides a platform on which academics, trade unionists, practitioners and activists can present alternative and progressive thinking about law, the criminal justice system and its relationship to society and economy.


Reading the riots

Are last year’s riots best seen as a protest against the police?
Did they reflect anger at public spending cuts, and the growing inequality that these are bringing?
Or was the looting and vandalism simply opportunistic behaviour on the part of criminal gangs?
Professor Tim Newburn led a major research inquiry into these issues, the ‘Reading the Riots’ study, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, and undertaken in partnership with the Guardian. The research involved interviews with hundreds of people who participated in the disorder.
Tim Newburn will present key findings from the study. He will describe the anger and frustration felt by those who were involved in the disorder, in part a product of the unfair and discourteous treatment they feel they suffer at the hands of the police, but also reflecting the disillusionment many feel at the social and economic changes which leave them increasingly disconnected from mainstream society. Rioters identified a range of political grievances, but at heart of their complaints was a pervasive sense of injustice. For some this was economic – the lack of money, jobs or opportunity. For others it was more broadly social – how they felt they were treated compared with others. Some of the looting was simply opportunistic, but the role of gangs in the riots has been significantly overstated by the government.

Introduction by  Professor Mike Hough (Birkbeck, Co-Director of Institute for Criminal Policy Research)


Guest speaker: Professor Tim Newburn, (Criminology and Social Policy, LSE)



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