In April 2002, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report on the Police Reform Bill said:
The Association of Police Authorities wrote to the Home Office five months ago prior to the fire at Yarl's Wood detention centre—asking for repeal of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. The Act makes police authorities liable for damages to buildings and their contents if a riot occurs under the Public Order Act—even if there has been no negligence of default by the police. The Government has said that this being reviewed, following riots in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley in 2001. The Minister told us:
- "the broad issue of whether an Act which is well over 100 years old is still appropriate has been raised. I honestly cannot say to you whether any conclusions will be reached about that in the timetable of the Bill and the issues are quite complex".
The Act remains in place. It is obvious that any damages paid out under the Act will ultimately be passed on to Council taxpayers. The costs of insurance will rise. It seems to me to be likely that, in the aftermath of these events, the coalition government will act fairly quickly to replace the Act using the economic climate as a reason. See BBC 9th August - "Will insurance cover riot damage?"
Claims under the 1886 Act: In 1921, regulations were made governing how claims must be submitted. As a basic rule, a claim must be submitted within 14 days from the day when "such injury, stealing, or destruction" took place. The Regulations are quite detailed and prescriptive as to the form which a claim must take.
Civil Contingencies Act 2004? The powers in the Act could be used. However, this seems to be ruled out at the moment.
Other posts: Public Order Offences 1 and Public Order Offences 2.
Addendum 10th August: Please see MTPT blog "Recommended riot reading blogs ...." The blog's author picks up on my fear that the government will move to repeal the 1866 Act. He makes an excellent point about what may happen if the Act is removed.
Barrister Adam Wagner has posted several interesting links on the UK Human Rights Blog - "The English Riots"