Quarter of English rioters were serial offenders: statistics

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A quarter of the people charged over the riots which rocked England in August had committed more than 10 criminal offences in the past, Ministry of Justice figures released on Thursday showed.

The statistics confirmed that "existing criminals were on the rampage" during the four nights of rioting and looting, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said.

Clarke said the justice system needed reforms "to ensure both effective punishment and reform to tackle re-offending".

"I am dismayed to see a hardcore of repeat offenders back in the system," he told the BBC.

"The courts, the prisons and the justice system's got to tackle how we reform as many of these people as are capable of reform -- how do we stop them reoffending?"

More than 1,700 people have appeared in court charged with offences linked to the riots.

The details were published as a former leader of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party said the middle classes had ignored the plight of people living on run-down social housing estates for years.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said they then paid the price when the inner city "came to call".

"For years now too many people have remained unaware of the true nature of life on some of our estates," he wrote in The Times.

"This was because we had ghettoised many of these problems, keeping them out of sight of the middle-class majority.

"But last month the inner city finally came to call, and the country was shocked by what it saw."

Duncan Smith said that simply arresting offenders over the unrest would not solve the deep-rooted social inequalities at the root of the trouble.

© 2011 AFP

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