Posted in A2 Sociology: Crime and Deviance

The Guardian: Reading the Riots

It is often said that sociologists are a “bunch of lefties” and whilst we know that this is not true, that sociologists can have any political affiliation or sympathy, it is apparent that some newspapers are much provide much more useful sociological material than others and in my eyes, it is the left leaning Guardian newspaper which provides some of the most interesting stimulus.

I have been especially impressed by the papers involvement with Julian Assange and the wikileaks, and perhaps even more so by the  recent coverage of the riots. The paper has tried to critically analyse the events, rather than sucumbing to much of the crass and simplisitc reporting prevalent in much of the media. Indeed, the paper is currently working together with the London School of Economics on what could be the first empirical study of the riots Modelled on an “acclaimed survey conducted in the aftermath of the Detroit riots in 1967”, the paper aims to utilise two databases compiled by the Guardian over the last month – one containing  more than 1,100 defendants who have appeared in court charged with riot-related offences, whilst the other contains 2.5 million riot related tweets.

So what has been found out so far?

  • Typical sentence for theft or handling stolen goods in riots is 13.6 months, compared with 11.6 months for same offences last year
  • More than 90% of the cases being sentenced at crown court are resulting in jail terms, compared with an average rate for custodial sentences of 46%.
  • An investigation into the Tottenham riots, which sparked copycat rioting across England, has found local police were alerted to rising tensions long before a protest over the killing of Mark Duggan by police descended into a riot.
  • The most severe sentences so far were handed for inciting riots on Facebook (even though no comments actually caused a specific riot!)
  • Research on public attitudes before and after the four nights of violence finds more people feel British culture is under threat
  • The majority of areas where suspect live are deprived – and 66% of them got poorer between 2007 and 2010, when the last survey was published
    • 41% of suspects live in the 10% most deprived places in England



Sociology and Media Studies teacher at Hazelwick School, West Sussex. Former teacher at Felpham Community College and Doha College

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