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"Chaos reigns" as courts struggle to process UK rioters

Courts around Britain struggle to deal with the huge influx of arrested people during a week of riots

Reuters , Thursday 11 Aug 2011
Riots
Arrested people turned to be a burden over the shoulders of British courts (Photo:Reuters)
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Courts around Britain were struggling on Thursday to cope with a huge influx of people arrested during this week's riots, including a millionaire's daughter, a charity worker and a woman who handed herself in after suffering pangs of guilt.

At Westminster magistrates' court, police vans queued round the block and spectators jostled for places as a seemingly endless procession of defendants trooped through the dock.

"Chaos reigns downstairs," one defence lawyer told Reuters.

Courts in the capital and elsewhere have been sitting all night to deal with an unprecedented number of cases.

London police said that as of mid-day Thursday they had arrested 922 people in connection with violence, disorder and looting. Of those, 401 people have so far been charged.

One defendant, graduate Natasha Reid, 24, handed herself in because she was "unable to sleep" after looting a television from an electrical store. She was warned that despite her remorse, she could still face jail.

A millionaire's daughter, Laura Johnson, 19, was remanded in custody when she appeared in court in Bexley near London after being arrested behind the wheel of a car filled with stolen electrical goods and alcohol worth some 5,000 pounds ($7,500).

One teenage girl from south London handed herself in after seeing her picture in the paper. She had told police she had just been a bystander but the prosecution said CCTV had shown her ducking under the broken shutters of a store twice and emerging each time with a flat screen TV. Bail was refused.

Charity worker Barry Naine, 42, was also refused bail when he appeared after being caught allegedly breaking into a clothing shop in Peckham in the south of the capital.

At Westminster, hearings were taking place in two small courtrooms, with the press packed into a tiny public gallery and standing room only elsewhere.

One of the first cases up was that of a second-year university law student accused of being part of a gang which ransacked cafes and restaurants in the upmarket area of St John's Wood in the north of the capital.

Marouane Rouhi, 21, was one of 16 people charged with violent disorder after the incident shortly after midnight on Wednesday. Magistrates heard that that his group "ransacked properties and terrorised customers" in the area.

Between 30 and 50 people were involved in the rioting before customers eventually chased the group off. Rouhi was remanded in custody.

Sameer Shah, 18, who works for a youth charity was also charged with violent disorder in St John's Wood.

Ahmed Farah, 27, a journalism student, was refused bail after being charged with possession of a knife in Hackney, east London, scene of the some of the worst rioting in the capital.

In the northern city of Manchester, eight men had been jailed by 7 am on Thursday on charges ranging from attacking police officers to handling stolen goods.
 

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