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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Blunkett's riot comments 'offensive'
Bradford riots
More than 90 people have been sentenced for rioting
The former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Lord Ouseley, has condemned the home secretary's description of those jailed after the Bradford riots as "maniacs...whining about their sentences".

He said David Blunkett's comments were offensive, provocative and dangerous.

Mr Blunkett launched his verbal attack during a speech to business leaders in his Sheffield constituency on Thursday.

He said those who took part in the riots in July 2001 should stop "whining" about the severity of their sentences, and rounded on "bleeding heart liberals" for criticising government crime initiatives.


He (Blunkett) shouldn't be so dismissive in the language that he uses, in such a brutal manner

Lord Ouseley

Lord Ouseley used language almost as strong as that of the home secretary to condemn the comments.

He said some of the young men concerned, most of whom were Asian, had given themselves up in good faith, and were not seasoned criminals.

He sid the legal system appeared to many to be inconsistent.

Lord Ouseley said the lengthy sentences, of up to eight years, gave the impression that young men from Asian Muslim backgrounds were treated more harshly than their white counterparts.

He also repeated his call for the Lord Chancellor to hold an inquiry into the matter "to ensure that the Muslim community itself isn't being picked on".

He criticised the way the home secretary was "dismissive in the language he used" and in "such a brutal manner".

A Home Office source said Mr Blunkett's strong language had reflected the strength of this anger that the rioters should wreck their own communities.

Officers injured

The sentences they received were perfectly within the framework of the law, he added.

The Bradford riots 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.

Mr Blunkett said on Thursday: "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.

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

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for home affairs, said he did not think the defendants had been treated any differently because they were Asian.

But he added: "It is for people to appeal if they want to and then to argue that a sentence is too high. And that is for courts not politicians (to decide)."

See also:

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