Britain, Reeling From Riots, Must Reverse Its ‘Moral Collapse,’ PM Says

August 15, 2011 - 6:12 AM

Britain

British Prime Minister David Cameron, center back to camera, talks to a group of young people, who are taking part in 'Not In Our Name' event, after posing for the media on the step of 10 Downing Street in London, Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

LONDON (AP) - Britain faces a battle to find its moral compass, Prime Minister David Cameron declared Monday, following four days of riots that left five people dead, thousands facing charges for violence and theft, and at least 200 million pounds ($350 million) in property losses.

Cameron said senior ministers of his two-year-old coalition government would spend the next few weeks formulating new policies designed to reverse what he described as a country being dragged down by many citizens' laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness. He said "the responsible majority" was demanding that the government build a stronger society.

"This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face," Cameron said in his prepared remarks for a planned Monday morning speech. "Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?"

In a rival speech, main opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband planned to criticize Cameron's plans and demand that lawmakers focus less on blame, and more on delivering better opportunities for young people.

"The usual politicians' instinct -- announce a raft of new legislation, appoint a new adviser, wheel out your old prejudices and shallow answers -- will not meet the public's demand," Miliband said in his own prepared remarks.

Miliband was scheduled to speak at his former school in Camden, north London, half a block away from the scene of intense rioting on Monday night, when shops were attacked and police came under attack.

"Does it matter whether young people feel they have a future, a chance of a better life? Yes it does," he said in the prepared text. "Are issues like education and skills, youth services, youth unemployment important for diverting people away from gangs, criminality, the wrong path? Yes. They matter."

The leaders were speaking hours after several hundred residents of Birmingham, England's second-largest city, rallied for peace and racial unity in memory of three Pakistani men run over and killed during last week's riots there. Asian, black and white locals joined hand in hand with police officers during the ceremony.

Birmingham police also charged a third suspect with the murders of Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31.

The three men died Wednesday after a car struck them at high speed as they stood guard outside a row of South Asian-owned shops in west Birmingham, 120 miles (190 kilometers) northwest of London. The attack raised fears of gang warfare between the area's South Asian and Caribbean gangs because residents identified the car-borne assailants as black. But public appeals for no retaliation, particularly from one victim's father, Tariq Jahan, have helped to keep passions at bay.

Police said Adam King, 23, would be arraigned Monday at Birmingham Magistrates Court on three counts of murder. Two others -- 26-year-old Joshua Donald and a 17-year-old whose name was withheld because of his age -- were arraigned Sunday on the same charges.

Speaking at Sunday's rally in a public park near the scene of the killings, Jahan told the crowd "that the three boys did not die in vain. They died for this community." He and several other speakers stood beneath a banner that read "One City, One Voice for Peace."

England's gang-fueled 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 Monday that they had uncovered a cache of weapons and hidden loot buried in flower beds in London's Camden district.

Knives, a hammer, metal bars and two cash registers -- both stolen from a nearby cycle store -- were found after officers combed the area with metal detectors.

"This is an amazing result," said Det. Chief Insp. Eric Phelps. "Several knives which could have been used as lethal weapons have been taken off the streets."

The Association of British Insurers has estimated the cost from wrecked property and stolen property at 200 million pounds, based on submissions so far from insurance brokers, but expects the total to keep rising.

Police are still questioning two men over the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old man during riots in Croydon, south London. And police said Sunday night they arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of fatally beating a 68-year-old man who had tried to put out a fire set by rioters in Ealing, west London.

Britain's justice ministry says more than 1,200 people have been charged so far with riot-related offenses. Several courts heard cases Sunday for the first time in modern history to try to reduce the backlog of cases. Two judges also worked full time Sunday in authorizing search warrants for police raiding homes of suspected rioters in a hunt to reclaim stolen goods.

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David Stringer in London contributed to this report.