The sentencing policy of the Bradford riot trials is meant to discipline an entire community, rather than reflect the severity of each individual’s actions.
The riots that took place in Manningham, Bradford, over the weekend of 7 July, 2001, caused over a million pounds worth of damage and left hundreds of police officers injured. Over the last year, 137 individuals have been charged with riot and a further 40 with violent disorder in relation to these incidents. To date, 115 convictions have resulted.
The Institute of Race Relations has analysed 58 of these convictions for which information could be obtained. The cases reveal a huge discrepancy in the sentences imposed against the Manningham rioters, most of whom are of Pakistani descent, and the sentences which have been brought in other cases of civil disturbance in the UK, such as the recent riots in Belfast. The sentences are also out of proportion to those imposed in cases resulting from the disturbances which took place one day after the Manningham riot, at the mainly white Ravenscliffe Estate, Bradford. For these reasons, the IRR is concerned that the sentencing policy is meant to discipline an entire community, rather than reflect the severity of each individual’s actions. The social context that fuelled the riots – documented in, for example, the Ouseley report – has also been excluded from the courts.
It is unusual for the charge of riot (which carries a maximum ten year sentence) to be brought, even in serious disturbances. But, of those prosecuted, the overwhelming majority (85% of those analysed by IRR) have faced this charge. Most have handed themselves in to the police and admitted their involvement, after their pictures appeared in local newspapers. Though they have pleaded guilty and most had no previous convictions, they have received sentences of, on average, four-and-a-half years. Many of those convicted are fathers of young children. Those who have been prosecuted in youth courts have received between one and two year sentences combining detention at a Young Offenders’ Institute with a training order.
The IRR wishes to draw particular attention to the following cases:
- Ashraf Hussain: Ashraf, 30, received a four year sentence for riot after the court saw video evidence of him throwing two or three stones. Ashraf, who has three children, has pyschological problems which mean that he is easily persuadable – a psychologist gave evidence that he was of abnormally low intelligence and would ‘follow the crowd like a sheep’.
- Alam Zeb Khan: Alam, 27, received a three year sentence for riot – there was no evidence of him throwing stones but he was described by police as a ‘ringleader’ because he was seen shouting at rioters. Alam is deaf and has no previous convictions.
- Asam Latif: Asam, 33, received a sentence of four years and nine months for riot – he threw six stones at police. Asam is the father of four children.
- Mudasar Khan: Mudasar, 21, went to the aid of a white shopkeeper and a pregnant woman who found themselves caught up in the riots and, with friends, protected their shop. In spite of this, he received a one year sentence for violent disorder because he was filmed throwing a stone.
- Mohammed Ali Zaman: Mohammed, 26, received a sentence of two-and-a-half years for riot after being filmed throwing two or three stones at the police. Mohammed also tried to usher youngsters off the streets and protect cars parked outside a garage from being attacked.
- Mohammed Arif: Mohammed, 26, has been sentenced to five years and three months for riot. He has two children and no previous convictions and alleges that he was provoked into throwing bricks after a police officer kicked him in the groin.
- Christopher Ullah: Christopher, who is mixed race and 19, has been convicted of involvement in the Ravenscliffe Estate disturbances. The events there were not officially classified as a ‘riot’ and so those involved have received much lower sentences than those convicted of involvement in the Manningham riot. Christopher, however, has received a sentence of 18 months at a young offenders’ institute – the same sentence as the Asians convicted at youth courts for the Manningham riots.