Clause 4 - The decision-maker on a claim

Part of Riot Compensation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 13th January 2016.

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Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate 2:30 pm, 13th January 2016

This Bill is particularly important to my constituents in Enfield, who suffered great loss. It is an area that would not have dreamed of being caught up in a riot, but was. I want to draw on situations where, instead of there being huge riots that transcend many regions, there may be an issue as to whether a riot takes place at all and whether what happens comes within the definition of riot.

In Enfield, as elsewhere, even though it was obvious that there had sadly been a riot, there was a concern and nervousness among the authorities about mentioning the word “riot”, because they would then click into a conversation. The Bill has rightly dealt with the antiquated language of the 1886 Act and the definition in the Public Order Act 1986, but there is still the same issue that liabilities follow from definitions; I know that, as a lawyer. We may not have such an obvious situation of riot on the streets of London, Birmingham or elsewhere. As a lawyer I know that when 12 or more people gather together in a public order incident, there is an issue as to  whether it comes under the strict definition of a riot or whether it is an affray or another Public Order Act incident.

When a claim is considered, the responsible person or authority is the policing authority, the appropriate decision-making body. We need to look at the process and ensure that there is not an undue conflict and that we do not wait on cases to go to court to see whether anyone mentions the word riot or wait for a determination and court judgment that says that those responsible have been convicted of riot. We do not want our constituents and businesses to have to hang on for that process, which could take a long time and be subject to further appeals and criminal court proceedings before a decision is made.

I ask the Minister whether that has been considered and whether it may be appropriate not necessarily to delegate the matter away from a policing authority, but to get an independent view from a separate prosecutorial authority. That could separate the prosecutorial function of those responsible for a public order incident from the function of determining the claim to ensure that a conflict cannot get in the way of a timely response and compensation.