The added factor in this criminality is the impact on the local community. Not just the physical damage that was caused, as shops and homes were trashed or burnt to the ground, including the devastating destruction of historic landmarks like the Victorian cottages of the Reeves store in Croydon (built 1867) and the fantastic art deco Union Point building in Tottenham (1930) – buildings that had survived the blitz – but the fear and terror caused to residents living in the affected areas. So restorative justice, with its emphasis on repairing the damage done by criminal acts and bringing home to the offenders the impact of their behaviour, as well as allowing victims, direct and indirect, to see justice being done, is surely worth a shot?
The problem is, of course, that it’s not seen as tough enough, and it’s not the swift justice that people want. But imagine the impact of seeing gangs of convicted looters in their orange jumpsuits in Croydon high street, cleaning the streets or repairing the damage done. It’s not as easy as sending people off to an established penal establishment, where the machine rolls into action as soon as sentence is passed. It would require planning, and resources, and a bit of thought. And I don’t think it would be appropriate for the organised gangs involved in the riots and looting. For those cases like the mother who received the stolen shorts or the guy who stole £3.50 of water from Lidl, wouldn’t such a punishment far better fit the crime?