Riots could break out in UK this summer, scientific adviser to Government warns

Riots could break out across the UK this summer as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic take hold, a scientific adviser to the Government has warned.

Professor Clifford Stott said there is a risk of disorder on a scale last seen during the London riots in August 2011 – sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan – if urgent efforts are not made by forces to quell any potential unrest in the neighbourhoods they serve.

The member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) sub-committee on behaviour said mass job losses and rising unemployment due to coronavirus, as well as concerns about racial and economic inequality, may all be factors which could fuel "confrontations" in the coming months.

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Pictures of the week: June 7 - 13
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Pictures of the week: June 7 - 13
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 12: Tailor Gary Keenan (R) of Bogart Menswear measures up a suit using a customer pod designed to keep customers safe from Covid-19 after their store reopened for business on June 12, 2020 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After being shuttered for months to curb the spread of Covid-19, retailers here reopened with social distancing measures, a few days ahead of when similar businesses can reopen in England. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Bryn Hughes (L), the father of Pc Nicola Hughes, and Paul Bone, the father of Pc Fiona Bone, during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new UK Police Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alreewas, Staffordshire.
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: Hollie Doyle heads out of the weighing room to the paddock prior to a race at Wolverhampton Racecourse on June 12, 2020 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Steve Davies/Pool via Getty Images)
Boards being put up around the statue of Thomas Guy at Guy's hospital in London, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Local residents show their support for a statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset ahead of its expected removal to "safe storage" following concerns about his actions while in the military and "Nazi sympathies". The action follows a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Locals show their support for a statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset ahead of its expected removal to "safe storage" following concerns about his actions while in the military and "Nazi sympathies". The action follows a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Two people cover under their clothes to protect from a rain shower as they row a boat on the river Thames at Windsor, as the the UK is forecast to be hit with heavy showers, strong gales and colder temperatures over the weekend, with Britons being warned not to move gatherings indoors.
Amanda Holden seen with an umbrella departing the Global Radio Studios in London. (Photo by Brett Cove / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A sticker placed on the tongue of one of the lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square, London, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Cecil Rhodes statue stands at the front facade of the Oriel College in Oxford during the protest. Cecil was an English-born businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. The founder of the diamond company De Beers and the founder of the state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) , which was named after him. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign was reignited from a 2016 campaign following recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the demise of George Floyd under police custody in Mineapolis. Despite the Covid19 lockdown, protesters globally have united to demand change. (Photo by David Mbiyu / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Protesters hold Rhodes Must Fall placards during the demonstration. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign was reignited from a 2016 campaign following recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the demise of George Floyd under police custody in Mineapolis. Despite the Covid19 lockdown, protesters globally have united to demand change. (Photo by David Mbiyu / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Police during a protest calling for the removal of the statue of 19th century imperialist, politician Cecil Rhodes from an Oxford college which has reignited amid anti-racism demonstrations.
A cyclist passes graffiti in Edinburgh following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Locals show their support for a statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset ahead of its expected removal to "safe storage" following concerns about his actions while in the military and "Nazi sympathies". The action follows a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, in Westminster, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday June 10, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
A worker cleans graffiti from the plinth of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill at Parliament Square in London, following a Black Lives Matter protest at the weekend. A raft of protests across the UK were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A worker collects discarded placards from Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster, London, following a Black Lives Matter protest at the weekend. A raft of protests across the UK were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 08: Graffiti that reads 'Britain built on Slavery' on Great George Street on June 08, 2020 in London, England. As the British government further relaxes Covid-19 lockdown measures in England, this week sees preparations being made to open non-essential stores and Transport for London handing out face masks to commuters. International travelers arriving in the UK will face a 14-day quarantine period. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Member of the public Graham Newby cleans graffiti, that included the letters BLM and the words "murderer" and "slave owner", from a statue of Queen Victoria in Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A person with a sign protesting 'British History Matters' alongside the statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset. The statue is due to be removed and placed in "safe storage" following concerns about his actions while in the military and "Nazi sympathies". The action follows a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A person holds a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest in Edinburgh, following a raft of protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A woman looks at a graffiti art piece on Black Lives Matter on a wall in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
McDonald's Shirley Road in Southampton operates under social distance measures as lockdown restrictions have been relaxed during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
Council workers clean graffiti, that included the letters "BLM" and the words "murderer" and "slave owner", from a statue of Queen Victoria in Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A policeman stands at the edge of an anti-racism protest in Queens Gardens, Hull, following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A member of staff has their temperature checked as they arrived to work at Woodford Dental Care in north London, as the practice opens up for the first time since the UK went into coronavirus lockdown.
CHELMSFORD, ENGLAND - JUNE 08: David Egan riding Queen of Silca (orange) win The Chelmsford Handicap at Chelmsford City Racecourse on June 08, 2020 in Chelmsford, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Dentist Dr Roy Woodhoo and Dental Nurse Charlie Coppen wear PPE to examine the first patient through the doors at Woodford Dental Care in north London, as the practice opens up for the first time since the UK went into coronavirus lockdown.
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Members of the Welsh Guards perform in a ceremony to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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A possible divide between poorer and more affluent areas brought on by local lockdowns – if brought into force – could also have an effect, the professor of social psychology at Keele University, who has advised the Home Office on public order strategy, warned.

Speaking in a personal capacity during an interview with the PA news agency, he said: "If the police don't invest in building positive police-community relations now, there is a potential for serious and large public disorder to emerge this summer.

"I think in the worst case scenario it's not inconceivable that we could have disorder on a scale equivalent to August 2011.

"What we need to do is to make sure we start addressing the underlying causes now, so that the conditions that led to the 2011 riots are not in place should we get a precipitating incident.

"Put simply, the most effective thing that the police can do is put bobbies on the beat."

Circumstances in the UK will change "quite considerably" in the coming months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Prof Stott said, adding: "There are important issues about inequality that could, if not dealt with properly, feed into a situation in the future over the summer months where confrontations develop."

Localised lockdowns could become "very, very problematic" for police officers if the rules mean people living in poorer areas are more likely to face tougher restrictions than those in affluent neighbourhoods, he said.

Enforcement generally has become "pretty impossible now to a large extent" as lockdown measures are eased, apart from for large-scale public gatherings, the professor said.

The danger, he warned, is some of the gatherings are "probably very likely" to be groups of young men on working class estates which could then attract more police attention, adding: "I think that could create a circumstance when lots of young men feel it's unfair about what's happening to them.

"And where the police try to enforce that unfairness, it could create a breakdown in social cohesion, lead to a sense of unfairness in policing.

"We know that those factors are often drivers for social conflict."

Growing concerns about the "disproportionate" use of Tasers against black people and those with mental health problems raised by the police watchdog last month as it investigated a series of incidents could also run the risk of becoming a trigger for unrest, Prof Stott said.

Professor Clifford Stott
Professor Clifford Stott said riots could break out across the UK this summer as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic take hold (Keele University/PA)

A rise in Covid-19 transmission rates forcing the country back into lockdown again when people are "significantly economically disadvantaged" could also "increase dissent about the conditions of people's lives", he added.

Asked whether the allegations over the Prime Minister's chief adviser Dominic Cummings breaching lockdown could contribute to unrest, Prof Stott said: "We are at a really, really pivotal time and the loss of trust and confidence that has been brought about by the Cummings affair has not assisted in maintaining that adherence, I think that's quite clear."

Essex Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington, who leads the National Police Chiefs' Council's work on public order and safety, said: "Police work within communities to tackle crime and solve problems – informed by conversations and active engagement.

"Where there are tensions, we work with communities to address concerns and respond sensitively. This will continue as restrictions continue to ease over the course of the summer.

"We are also well prepared to respond to any rises in crime or disorder."

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