‘No indication’ of public unrest amid coronavirus fallout, say police

Riot police form a line in Tottenham, north London, during the 2011 riots Picture: LEWIS WHYLD/PA W

Riot police form a line in Tottenham, north London, during the 2011 riots Picture: LEWIS WHYLD/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Suffolk police have responded to speculation that the coronavirus crisis could spark widespread public disorder this summer.

The force said no intelligence suggested any impending unrest related to public health regulations after a government adviser warned that potential localised lockdowns risked sparking summer riots.

Professor Clifford Stott, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) subcommittee on behaviour, said imposed selective measures to prevent a second wave of the virus could lead to civil disorder.

Prof Stott, who has advised on public order strategy, said there was a risk of disorder on a scale seen during the 2011 London riots – sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan – if urgent efforts were not made by police to quell potential unrest.

He said mass job losses, rising unemployment, and concern over racial and economic inequality, could all fuel “confrontations”.

He told the PA news agency: “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.”

Prof Stott said circumstances will change considerably in coming months as a result of the pandemic, 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.”

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Localised lockdowns could become “very problematic” for police if the rules mean people living in poorer areas face tougher restrictions, he said.

Asked whether 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.”

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “At this stage there is no indication or intelligence to suggest any public disorder is due to take place over the summer in Suffolk in relation to Covid public health regulations.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and continue to engage closely with our communities across the county.

“The public should be reassured we are well prepared to respond if the need arises.”