Pictures of several of the young rioters committing crimes appeared in national newspapers. Despite that, they retain the court’s protection of legal anonymity.
According to the Metropolitan Police, about half of the 240 people to appear in court so far charged with being involved in the London riots are younger than 18. The Met has arrested 1,009 people in connection with the disorder and 464 have been charged.
The sentences being handed down have dismayed police and MPs after the Prime Minister’s promise that rioters would “pay for what they have done”.
Further undermining Mr Cameron’s tough rhetoric, Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, backed the courts. He rejected the Prime Minister’s call for new sentencing rules.
For example, two 12–year–old boys walked away from court after being involved in looting. One of them admitted stealing a £7.49 bottle of wine from a Sainsbury’s store and was given a ninemonth referral order.
In court, the youngster appeared ashamed of his actions. But after the hearing, he and his mother shouted at reporters.
A 15–year–old girl was also given a 10–month referral order for stealing alcohol from a Tesco store after admitting burglary. And a 17–year-old was given 18 hours of community service after admitting possessing cannabis.
In Nottingham yesterday, an 11–year–old girl, who only left primary school last month, smirked and refused to apologise when put before a judge.
She admitted causing criminal damage on Tuesday by smashing shop windows. A judge gave her a nine–month referral order because of her age.
Mr Cameron earlier this week warned that even the youngest offenders would face heavy penalties. “If you’re old enough to commit the crime, you are old enough to face the punishment,” he said.
James Clappison, a Conservative member of the home affairs committee, said he was “very concerned” about young rioters’ light sentences.
“The courts are failing to hand down sufficiently tough sentences,” he said. “We need deterrent sentences, but we are not seeing that. Magistrates need to think again.”
At the same time one more man died in riots.
Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, who was left in a coma when he was set upon by a mob in Ealing during Monday’s disorder, died late on Thursday night, prompting detectives to launch a murder inquiry.
A 22-year-old man was later arrested on suspicion of murder, rioting and carrying out three burglaries, police said
Mr Bowes’ death follows those of three friends who were run down by a car as they attempted to protect their community from looters in Birmingham and the murder of a 26-year-old father-of-four who was shot during disorder in Croydon.
More than 1,500 people have now been arrested by forces in towns and cities hit by chaos and destruction earlier this week and more than 500 charged with offences related to the four days of disorder.