Clapham business owners do not condemn police for London riots withdrawal


A report published confirmed there were not enough officers to handle the situation durind the August riots.


By Hardeep Matharu

Business owners in Clapham Junction do not condemn a police withdrawal from the area during the August riots after a report published this month confirmed there were not enough officers to handle the situation. 

Disorder in Wandsworth, an independent review commissioned by Wandsworth Council, found the Borough Commander withdrew police officers at 9.08pm to prevent an escalation of violence and serious injury to police and members of the public.

Just eight public order trained officers remained in Wandsworth after the Metropolitan Police Service transferred 52 of the borough’s officers to Tottenham earlier in the day. 

The report found that as the police were heavily outnumbered, they had no choice but to withdraw.

Business owners in Clapham Junction – whom the report said had felt “abandoned and unprotected” – are not all blaming the police for retreating.

While upset by the damaged caused to his shop, Mark Foster, Director at Headmasters hairdressers, said it was a difficult situation for the police.

“They just didn’t have enough officers to go in and so I’m glad no one was seriously injured,” he said.

“The situation looked horrific. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted police officers to have been injured for the sake of some hair products which were being looted from our shop.

“The police did seem to sort out riots in other areas, Clapham Junction was unlucky. It’s a tough one.”

Tony Nicholls, Manager at Braggins rug store, agreed: “I can’t blame officers for following decisions made by their seniors. I can see how their hands were tied. 

“The police weren’t here to stop my shop being smashed up, but a lot of perpetrators were arrested and did end up in court.”   

Mr Nicholls believes the bigger picture needs to be considered as to why the riots occurred in the first place.

“A lot of the people involved have no respect for themselves.  If you haven’t got respect for yourself, you have no respect for others,” he added.

The report also revealed that on the evening of the riot, the Borough Commander requested public order trained reinforcements at 8.00pm, which did not arrive until 9.57pm. 

It was 10.38pm before Clapham Junction began to be cleared.

George Cox, co-owner of The Lock Centre, which lost £8-10,000 worth of stock, said more could have been done by the officers in Wandsworth at the time.

“The violent rioters had moved on and the majority of people left were just having a good time.  The police could have come in to stop this,” he said.

“Rioters broke the windows of my shop but didn’t steal anything initially. They came back later and looted it when there was nothing to stop them from doing so.”

Wandsworth Police’s Acting Borough Commander Gerry Campbell said: “We will study the report’s contents and the recommendations to extract any learning so that we can move forward with our partners and improve the services we deliver.  

“We remain determined and committed to improve our services.”

The Metropolitan Police Service has now commissioned its own strategic review into the policing operation during the riots, to be led by its Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens.

Disorder in Wandsworth recommends the Service considers the funds allocated to providing public order training for its officers and its ability to respond immediately to requests for assistance during unrest.

The report asks: “Should substantially higher priority be given to training police officers to deal with outbreaks of public disorder?  Or is the risk of repetition too low to justify substantial change?”  

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