16-Year-Old Charged With London Riot Murder

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LONDON — British police have charged a 16-year-old boy with murdering a retiree during an attack by rioters in London last week, as the government said officers would get better training and stronger powers to deal with a new and unpredictable era of street disturbances.

The boy, who can’t be named because of his age, is accused of killing 68-year-old Richard Bowes, who was found lying in a street during riots in Ealing, west London, on Aug. 8. He died of head injuries three days later.

The boy’s mother has been charged with obstructing the police investigation.

The suspect appeared in a London youth court Tuesday and was ordered detained until his next hearing Thursday.

Five people died during violence that ravaged English cities last week, including three men hit by a car in Birmingham, central England as they protected local shops from looters. Two men and a teenage boy have been charged with murdering Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31.

Several suspects have also been questioned about the death of a man who was shot in the head during rioting in south London.

Across the country, some 3,000 people have been arrested — more than half of them in London — and about 1,400 of those charged with riot-related offenses.

Courts opened around-the-clock for several days to deal with the flood of suspects.

Rioting began in London Aug. 6 and spread to several other English cities. Police were criticized for responding too slowly, particularly in London, but eventually deployed huge numbers of officers at riot zones to quell the mayhem.

Police said they would keep up an expanded presence on the streets of London over the coming days, although the force didn’t give a detailed breakdown. Scotland Yard said many of the additional officers would be assigned to hunt those involved in the riots.

Home Secretary Theresa May said Britain had entered a “faster moving and more unpredictable” era of public order policing, and promised forces would get new instructions about training riot officers and responding to trouble.

“We will make sure police have the powers they need,” she said — including wider powers to impose curfews.

The government has already floated a raft of new powers, including allowing police to order anyone suspected of being a thug to remove their mask or hood, evicting troublemakers from subsidized housing and temporarily disabling cell phone instant messaging services.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will consult former Los Angeles, New York and Boston Police Chief William Bratton on gang-fighting techniques.

Many senior police officers feel stung by the decision to look to the U.S., and by government criticism of their handling of the riots, and oppose plans to slash police budgets as part of sweeping austerity measures.

May acknowledged the government would cut funding to the police by 20 percent over four years, but said that pay freezes and eliminating red tape meant the real-terms reduction would be much lower.

And she said there would be no effect on front-line officers.

“What matters is not the total number of officers employed but the total number of officers deployed,” May said.

On Monday Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to deliver a slew of new policies aimed at reversing the “slow-motion moral collapse” which he blamed for fostering the disorder.

Opposition politicians and liberal commentators have pointed to racial tensions, poverty and the government’s austerity measures as underlying factors in the riots across London and other major cities.

Instead, Cameron blamed gang-related crime and a widespread failure from Britain’s leaders to address deep rooted social issues, including the country’s generous welfare system.

Cameron pledged to end a culture of timidity in discussing family breakdown or poor parenting, or in criticizing those who fail to set a good example to their children or community.

“We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong,” Cameron said. “We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said, about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Tuesday that the government would set up an independent panel — though not a full public inquiry — to hear from victims and investigate the causes of the riots.

Clegg said it would be “a grass roots process where people in the communities affected and the victims who have been so damaged and hurt can give their views about what needs to happen to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The Association of British Insurers has estimated the cost from wrecked and stolen property at 200 million pounds ($326 million) but expects the total to rise.

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