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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Jailed rioters told to 'stop whining'
Bradford riots
More than 300 police officers were injured
Protesters jailed for their part in the Bradford riots should stop "whining" about their sentences, according to Home Secretary David Blunkett.

He rounded on "bleeding heart liberals" for criticising government crime initiatives.


For every sentence ... there's some bleeding heart liberals who are there wanting to get them off

David Blunkett
The home secretary also refuted claims by actresses Joan Collins and Liz Hurley that London was not as safe as New York.

Mr Blunkett launched the attack during a speech to business leaders in his Sheffield constituency.

Turning to last year's riots in Bradford, he argued that "the maniacs who were engaging in this are now whining about sentences they have been given".

Lost opportunities

"The police have done a really good job in following this through and at last the courts are handing out sentences that are a genuine reprisal but also a message to the community."

David Blunkett
Blunkett described the Bradford rioters as 'maniacs'
But Mr Blunkett stressed: "For every sentence, for every tough new law, for every sensible measure, there's some bleeding heart liberals who are there wanting to get them off, get them out and reduce their sentence."

The Bradford riots in July 2001 were seen as the worst in mainland Britain for many years.

More than 300 police officers were injured and damage estimated at 25m was caused.

'Airbrushed facts'

Mr Blunkett said: "These maniacs actually burned down their own businesses, their own job opportunities. They discouraged investment in their areas."

So far, more than 90 people have been sentenced to an average of four to five years in jail by judges at Bradford Crown Court.

Phillip Brear, the acting chief constable of West Yorkshire, has hit back at claims that the sentences given to rioters were too harsh, accusing some people of "airbrushing the facts".

Last week there were demonstrations in Bradford by groups against the sentence levels.

'Scare tactics'

The home secretary used his speech to take a swipe at the national media for failing to understand that crime figures would rise with the success in getting people to report crime.

He was critical of the forthcoming BBC Crime Day.

"The more you get crimes reported, the more reported crime goes up, the more I get slagged off by the all-knowing, less-understanding national press," said Mr Blunkett.

"I suspect we're going to get a dose of this in two weeks' time with the BBC's Crime Day - a whole day of frightening everybody to death about crime."

Crime prevention

A spokesman for the BBC refuted Mr Blunkett's claims about the 18 September programme, stressing that the home secretary had agreed to take part in it and would be taking questions.

"In Don't Have Nightmares ... Nick Ross, Fiona Bruce and Peter Snow will dispel the myths and give the facts about crime in Britain today," said the spokesman.

"The programme will also look at many of the crime prevention projects going on around the country and during the evening there will be practical advice on how viewers can make themselves and their homes safer."

The home secretary told the Federation of Small Businesses' regional conference he would be publishing figures soon to show that his street crime initiative was working, despite a small number of police forces not meeting their targets.

Demoralised force

He hit back at "a built-in failure mechanism in the psyche of British people", which he claimed branded people and initiatives as failures before they had had a chance to achieve anything.

"No wonder the police get demoralised," he said. "We're not prepared to put up with what people have experienced over the last 20 years.

"It's not inevitable that there will be a downward spiral in our communities.

"New York is not safer than London, despite recent publicity by Joan Collins and Liz Hurley.

"Liz Hurley wanted a policeman in every coffee-house and that gives the game away in terms of her perception of where the problem really lies."

Partnership

Mr Blunkett said he wanted to work with business leaders and their local communities to reduce crime against firms.

He accepted the results of FSB's survey which showed 83% of small firms dissatisfied with the courts and 56% dissatisfied with the police.

Mr Blunkett pledged to speak to Chancellor Gordon Brown about claims that firms who invested in security measures often saw a corresponding hike in their business rates.

Mr Blunkett later toured Sheffield's 2.3m CCTV system, dubbed one of the most sophisticated in Europe.

See also:

26 Aug 02 | England
06 Aug 02 | England
07 Jul 02 | Politics
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