Starting fires and stealing nappies: the courts crack down hard on rioters across London

Screen grab of Croydon fire

One man has appeared in court over  the arson at Reeves furniture store while detectives are still questioning two men in connection the murder of a man in a car as  police investigations continue into the rioting which struck Croydon last week.

Yesterday, Gordon Thompson, 33, of Waddon Road, Croydon appeared at Croydon Magistrates Court charged with arson in relation to the Reeves furniture store fire in London Road. He has been remanded until August 22 when he will appear at the Inner London Crown Court. The fire destroyed a 100-year old family business.Two other men, (one of them 15), who were arrested earlier, have been released on police bail, pending further enquiries.

Meanwhile, detectives are questioning two men who were arrested over the weekend in relation to the death of  Trevor Ellis, a father of four from Brixton, who was shot in  Croydon after a car chase.  On Sunday, police arrested a 27-year- old man from Sutton and  another man, aged 24, in Camberwell, on suspicion of murder. Both are in custody.  A 24-year-old man arrested in Brighton on Thursday and another man, aged 26, arrested in Mitcham on Friday, both in connection with the murder, have been bailed.

Although there is no suggestion the murder itself was directly related to the disorder, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Hutchison of Operation Trident, said he believed that Ellis’ killers were involved in looting. Hutchison said: “Trevor Ellis was murdered on a night where Croydon, and in fact London, saw unprecedented levels of violence and disorder I believe his killers were actively involved in looting and responsible for robbing at least two people that night. They thought nothing of arming themselves with a gun and ultimately taking a young man’s life leaving four young children without a father.”

Elsewhere a number of people from the EastLondonLines area have appeared in court charged with riot related offences. Jason Matthews, 35, of Croydon has been charged with burglary and possession of cannabis. He told the court that he was inside the Tesco store because he needed nappies for his baby.  The court was told that he was wearing a bandanna over his face at the time and ‘grappled’ with police trying to arrest him.

Shonola Smith, 22, a model, was arrested outside Argos in Croydon with her sister Alicia and and a friend Donness Bissessar, also 22. Alicia was found with ten packs of chewing gum. All three, pleaded guilty to entering the store with intent to steal and were jailed for six months by Croydon magistrate. Each case was a first offence.

Lewisham student, Samon Adesina, 23, was remanded in custody for a week for allegedly stealing a flatscreen TV from the shopping centre in Surrey Quays. The court heard he thought there were ‘free pickings’ at the store. While in custody he will miss his final exams  in electrical engineering.

Sentencing seems to be following no perceivable pattern. Stefan Bohan,24, who appeared at Camberwell magistrates court, was sent down for 20 weeks for picking up and keeping a bag of wine and sweets that he found on the street. Bohan was said to be a full time carer for his mother.

At Highbury Magistrates Court, David Attoh, an 18-year-old IT student also admitted “theft by finding” but was released after spending two days in custody on remand. The magistrate, Melvyn Marks, heard that he had an interview for an apprenticeship on Tuesday, and on fining him £150 said: ”Don’t get in trouble again. You have a bright future ahead of you, if you get into trouble again you are going to jeopardise that future.”

Looted shopping centre, Wood Green.

A photographer, who preferred not to be named, who was on the ground during the riots in Tottenham and Hackney, commented: “At Wood Green the people were looting completely undisturbed by the police for over five hours.

“They could have been stopped. The kids started to run away at the first rumour that police were on their way.

“I knew that the whole thing was being recorded on CCTV and that they would all be picked up later. I don’t understand why no police came. Nobody seemed to care. Those kids didn’t sign up for anarchy they weren’t after the end of society. They just took advantage of the situation.

“It seemed almost deliberate – leave them to help themselves and then come down on them like a ton of bricks. ”

The Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Stephen Kavanagh, told BBC Breakfast  that some of his officers were disappointed with the low sentences handed out to looters. “That has been personally raised by me and others, and the commissioner I know has also raised it, so we will move through those issues and I am confident we will get the support of the courts.”

The Guardian datablog has been analysing the response to the looting. So far 52.6 per cent of those picked up have been remanded in custody. These people have almost all be charged with burglary or violent disorder. This compares to only 3.5 per cent remanded in custody  from magistrates courts over the last year. Under normal circumstances only about 10 per cent of violent crime cases are remanded. The few cases that were bailed concerned children under 18.






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