John Deed had been likewise assaulted by images of dark violence and lurid flames all week which had invaded his television for the last week and had kept his counsel. Finally, on the Friday after the riots first started, he took himself into the heart of London by tube train to get the feel of life outside. Certainly, the tube was crowded but people looked workaday and ordinary. As the tube clattered through the dark, he gathered his preliminary thoughts together. Certainly the establishment were both frightened and vengeful. He knew that it boiled down to a fear of the mob which stretched back into history. It had adapted in the face of pressure to stave off rioters and looters in the past. It crossed his mind that women got the vote in stages partly as windows in Oxford street had been smashed, pillar boxes set on fire and an attack had been launched on the Houses of Parliament itself. These violent events had been softened by the soporophic effect of history writers.
He set off for a stroll round the City of London and the familiar hum of busy traffic was no different than before and neither were the hordes of people frantically rushing around their business. The familiar skyline was unchanged, the ancient and modern buildings competing for attention. Finally, the call of a newspaper seller in the street caught his attention and he recognised an old acquaintance. This was the radical activist who had helped him at the time he'd launched a judge's strike against Haughton's attempts to shackle the judiciary.
"Hi there. it's nice to see you again. Don't worry, I'm not on strike this time," he joked after crossing the busy street and heading in his direction.
"I remember you," he replied warmly as his capacious memory placed this unusual man in its context."How are you doing? You must buy a copy of this paper and read the truth about the London Riots."
"As opposed to the hang and flog them brigade. I need some mental fresh air."
"How's the feeling amongst the judges. At the least, you can't let the government push you around."
"Don't let your hopes get too high. I'll see what I can do but I promise nothing I can't deliver," John said in a downcast manner. He had read the way the wind was blowing.
With the copy of the radical newspaper under his arm, John strolled away back to the underground station to return to his chambers. He bought a couple of newspapers of differing political outlooks and slung them on the table in his chambers. Coope raised an eyebrow and John got there first.
"I'm conducting my own reserarch into the recent London Riots. I need to do this to clear my head before I start a day's cases," John declared boldly.
" 'These were not "riots. They had no political purpose and no origin in discontent or deprivation' so said the bold leaden typescript of the Daily Mail," quoted John.
'Those apprehended by the police appear to me for the most part to be stragglers and losers, the slow runners and dimwits who were still on the scene when the constabulary eventually arrived. They are not the main actors. I have no sympathy for them, but the idea that the law is about to take a severe revenge on the culprits is laughable. Most of the culprits got away with it. My reluctant conclusion, that Britain is finished as a civil and civilised society, is unaltered. I suspect quite a few more people may now grasp this point, but the majority of our "intelligentsia" will continue to regard me as a "fascist" and my solutions to these problems as unthinkable. They will even accuse me - falsely - of believing that the 1950s were a "Golden Age" but I can promise them that they will soon look upon this decade as a "Golden Age" compared with what is coming. Yet they cheer on the introduction of plastic bullets and water cannon to our streets, a terrible admission of defeat and a further step down the dark staircase to the strong state and the end of liberty."
"Ha, the Daily Telegraph has a unique spin on life," declaimed John. 'It suggested that moral decay is just as bad at the top of society as it is at the bottom, with the rich and powerful generating anger among the British population. He cited the MPs expense scandal, banker's bonuses , and the phone hacking scandal as setting poor examples."
"What do I see in the depths of the Financial Times?" John said, shaking his head in wonder."Here is a cartoon depicting a Union Flag being broken through by a looter in a hoodie carrying a stolen box of Adidas trainers, preceded by two men in suits carrying piles of cash, one saying "MP's Expenses" and another "Banker's Bonus."
Finally, he turned to the paper he'd just bought from his friend. It said "Britain is already less equal that at any time since the 1930s. While many of those who left school last month face a future without hope, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose £60 billion in 2011 to nearly £400 billion. The £81 billion of cuts decreed by David Cameron's government will mean hundreds of thousands of job losses, devastated communities and services destroyed. At some point people pushed to the wall will turn and fight back. That is what is happening now, just as it did during Margaret Thatcher's reign in the 1980s, the great slump of the 1930s and the great depression of the 1880's, all periods which saw riots in Britain. Riots are an expression of anger, as Martin Luther King said, they are "the language of the unheard."
He mulled his ideas over and he thought of one Elizabeth Pritchard and how she might be faring in the newspaper jungle as he knew she was as good hearted and spirited as anyone.
As the week went on, Trisha and Sally-Anne couldn't help but notice that club takings had dropped this week and the crowds on the dance floor had thinned out and had lost their sparkle. It was easy enough to work out why. The riots had spread a pervasive fear of going out around London even though the club was out of the trouble areas.
Neither of them could believe what was happening around them. They could understand feelings of anger against injustice as Trisha could remember how it helped fuel early Pride marches before they became a celebratory parade. What angered them was the damage and destruction to innocent people.
"...we're getting our taxes back" said a young girl who was looting a sports shop-Croydon furniture store set on fire-3,0000 charged and 6 people dead-two police cars in tottenham set on fire-16,000 police drafted in from outside London on the 4th night-" or so the BBC news narrated from the flickering screen.
Suddenly, the TV screen went blank- Trisha had turned it off and had decided on action.
"i have it Sally. We'll give Friday night a special push and get all our friends and friends to come. We've not our internet site."
"So it comes down to me as computetr wizard. Very well, I'll do a coloured party lady logo that I saw on the back page of Diva. We'll head it 'Loving the freedom from fear. Come out tonight-RSVP.' A double meaning of love and defiance," Sally-Anne said slowly and pleasurably as the ideas started flowing.
"That is so good I can see it. Come over gorgeous," Trisha said, drawing her partner in for a long kissd. They'd spent too many evenings letting everything get to them. In a short while, the internet started buzzing and Karen and Beth opted to childmind for Rose, Michael and Niamh.
"If the rioters have got me more furious than anything, it's with taking up so much YV time with its gloom and doom," George said loudly as the gang were assembled round the table in the VIp room. Everyone was determinedly dressed up to the nines.
"Not now George. I thought you'd be out to enjoy yourself. Besides, I reckon this police operation was a rerun of the SUS laws in the eighties which didn't work then and the police mishandled the backlash.," Jo Mills responded smoothly.
"Now then you guys. If there isn't peace on the streets, at least have it in this club," intervened a laughing Helen giving a smiling Nikki a knowing look.
"Why are we having a political discussion when we could be dancing the blues away?" questioned Roisin with great precision.
"Good idea babes," laughed Jane with her long blond hair floating free and whose party instincts couldn't be denied.
She linked her fiancee's hand in her own and kissed her deeply. All knew that this gesture wasn't escapism but affirmation of their existence. They weren't on skid row but that didn't disqualify them from wanting something better out of their lives. George laughingly led the procession down the stairs dressed in her short golden dress and, as the conga line of happy laughing women reached the dance floor, two familiar figures came into view from the opposite direction. These were the dark-trousered white shirted Ros and Jenny.
"hi there, long time no see,"Jane called out in her friendly manner which cheered the two women right up. As they caught sight of Nikki followed by Helen, they looked a little worried, knowing their friends' politics.
"He Nikki, we come in peace. we need a break from trouble on the streets," Ros said with jaunty bravado, her palms raised.
"Hey, take it easy. We know you well enough to do your jobs right." "Let's put that all aside and come and join the party," Nikki and Helen said in quick succession.
Ros and Jenny came as close as they ever did for tears to come to their eyes. They'd slogged their guts out working long hours over the riots and they desperately wanted soft release. They hugged heir friends, being soft and glowing all over before slipping off into the dance crowd romantically smooching up against each other. The others looked round at each other, knowing as much as anyone that if they didn't agree on everything, such deep rooted friendship could never be denied.
Finally, on the night of Friday August 12th no more rioting took place and the streets were as quiet as they ever were so that the fires stopped burning. It didn't stop the instant analyses being made, the explanations and excuses and the politicians promised that they wouldn't leave the victims of crime in the lurch. The police continued to carry out a comprehensive investigation of witnesses and CCTV evidence and the dragnet stretched itself amongst the riot torn communities. During the week of the riots, John had spent more time sleeping at Kristine's flat and less time at the judges' digs. Her tender presence had kept him level.
"I've spent a lot of energy in researching, educating and pushing for prison education and reform. I really don't want all the prisons to be filled up to bursting point more so than they are already.I'm pretty angry at all the pointless destruction and my sympathies are with these victims. These youths should never have followed each other like sheep after those who started it all. I'm not sure that the man who was shot was exactly some kind of angel. the whole thing upsets me John," she urged softly and gently,"...but that's only me talking. You do what you need to do and say. I won't hold you back any more than you would do the same to me." at that moment, John loved Kristine all over again. It spurred him to talk to the brethren though a little voice at the back of his head was telling him that things wouldn't be easy.
As soon as John started to speak to monty, he noticed his friend's expression start to darken and a frown of displeasure appear on his face which told him he was getting nowhere. He suspected that Monty was, at heart a Tory anarchist who would readily fight against overbearing politicians but fear of the mob was a deep-seated primeval instinct.
"This won't do John. i hear that this Duggan was a pretty shady character and the police had to make a split-second judgment. The police might have mishandled the protest demonstration but there's a vicious gang culture and it jumped on the bandwaggon and got up to mayhem. I feel particularly sorry for the hard working people whose businesses were vandalised, robbed or destroyed. if I have anything to do with it, those thugs will be punished up to the maximum. they need punishing to make damn sure they learn the lesson not to cause trouble in the future. an example needs making of them," he growled in threatening tones.
"But surely Monty, prison is the university of crime. The last thing we need is foolish people or those in the wrong place in the wrong timeto spend months if not years to mix with hardened criminals if they have a grievance against being harshly treated," John reasoned persuasively. He hadn't talked with Nikki about the riots for nothing or absorbed a lot of what Kristine had to say about prison education.
"Come on John, they're not that innocent. Sometimes harsh lessons need to be taught and they'll have to take their medecine." John suppressed his anger that boiled up inside him as his friend pontificated arrogantly. Like lightning, he tried arguing his case from another angle.
"Time will tell the Government repackages the short, sharp shock mantra of the worst days of Margaret Thatcher, be it on its head. It'll lose face sooner or later as passions cool. What worries me is the juduciary publicly tieing itself to the government line and discredits itself. we could pay for this intemperance. It's the case of sentence in haste, repent at length through the Court of Appeal. I can see this one coming," John said trying to keep calm.
"I'll never agree with you John. Not for one minute. You're sounding like a wet liberal," Monty snorted derisively.
"Then let's agree to disagree on this matter. Don't ever think that I condone wrong doing and there's certainly been some here. if I had those before me who set fire to that Croydon furniture shop, I wouldn't hold back from inflicting punishment but it would be proportionate," John said with a quiet but steely determination.
"In that case, let's leave it at that John," Monty said in a more conciliatory tone of voice. He'd got his anger out of his system and knew he'd gone too far. In truth, he was sick of the whole thing.
As time went on, more and more stories floated out on the wind, good, bad and indifferent.
"The city councils of Manchester and Salford are reported to be investigating their powers for ways of evicting tenants if they, or their children, have been involved in violence or looting in their cities. The London Borough of Greenwich also stated on its website: "We shall seek the eviction of anyone living in council property if they are found to have been engaged in criminal acts."
"A woman who had not taken part in the riots received five months for receiving a pair of stolen shorts. The sentence was later reduced on appeal."
"A teenager was freed when prosecutors found evidence he had been wrongly charged with arson. While in prison, his own flat was burned down."
Judge Jackson stated that there is "an overwhelming obligation on sentencing courts to do what they can to ensure the protection of the public", that "the imposition of severe sentences, intended to provide both punishment and deterrence, must follow" and that "those who deliberately participate in disturbances of this magnitude, causing injury and damage and fear to even the most stout-hearted of citizens, and who individually commit further crimes during the course of the riots are committing aggravated crimes". The later appeal against this judgment was dismissed."
John took his place as a winger in some of these appeals and did his best to mitigate the worst of the damage done.
Time had passed on and Nikki turned her car once more to her place of work in Hackney on a pale autumn day. she was in a deflated mood as she'd had so many cross-cutting ideas going round in her head on the riots that she was sick of the whole thing.
The facts she'd compiled as of 15 August spoke for themselves. About 3,100 people had been arrested, of whom more than 1,000 had been charged while arrests, charges and court proceedings continued. Initially, courts sat for extended hours. There were a total 3,443 crimes across London linked to the disorder. Emergency calls on Monday night saw a 300% increase, from 5,400 normally to 20,800. Along with five deaths, at least 16 others were injured as a direct result of related violent acts. An estimated £200 million worth of property damage was incurred, and local economic activity was significantly compromised. One thing she knew for certain was that the prisons were getting jammed full to capacity once again so that they'd be like pressure cookers. The problems were obvious to anyone with half a brain and prison education was bound to suffer as Kristine confessed to her in discussions.
Where did she go from here she wondered? The question was just how critical the Howard League should be of the aftermath of the riots. She and Paul got their heads together and came up with several drafts of a statement. It wasn't easy just how to pitch it to cover all the nuances without pointing in all directions at the same time. Finally, they came up with this statement which they pitched in terms of some of the sentences being handed down in the courts.
Speaking in reaction to some of the sentences being handed down in the courts in relation to the riots and disturbances last week, the Director of Campaigns for the Howard League of Penal Reform said: "While it is understandable that the courts have been asked to treat the public disturbances as an aggravating factor, this should be balanced against a key principle of criminal justice, that of proportionality. The danger is that some of these sentences are disproportionate and indeed devalue our response to more serious crimes".
"We know the courts are swamped with cases, and handing down hurried and overly punitive sentences will only result in many criminal appeals, which will act as a further drag on the system. Beyond the impact on the courts, we have prisons which are already over-brimming and will struggle to manage this influx of people.
"Clearly people have committed serious offences and prison sentences shall be handed out. But more generally, we have doubled our prison population since the mid-1990s and seen tougher and tougher measures introduced each year, with an abundance of criminal justice legislation.
"Yet despite all this, the outcome of being 'tough on crime' was some of the worst street disturbances seen in decades. That alone tells us that the answers to our problems do not lie within the criminal justice system."
The two of them saw their final draft get dispatched into the realm of public affairs. It was the best they could do.
As Nikki drove home, she reflected on the fact that she and Helen had plenty to do as their daughter Rose was developing fast as their circle of friends childminded for her. Her mood was only down to work that caused some of her headaches.
"What have I achieved in my life Helen? Nikki asked disconsolately late one 'd settled Rose to bed and the time felt right to talk as they always had.
"Are you kidding? You've only help start a lesbian club that's still going and providing a home for women to be real. You nailed your degree and became Superwoman of G Wing, at least jointly with me. After getting a job when we came out, you got a better job in the Howard Leage where you helped get a great line in dissident speakers. You've helped raise a wonderful daughter who thinks the world of you and me. Oh yes, you are my one and only love. I mean, where does the list stop?" Helen replied with her broad grin and glinting eyes.
"All right," admitted Nikki a foolish grin spreading across her face as she admired the way her worthy partner stuck to the facts and threw sunlight into the dark corners of her mind."I suppose a lot has happened for the good. Things could be worse. It's just that nothing I've done in my life has ever been enough."
"It has in our private life," came Helen's sweet rejoinder."All the same, I agree that we're living in dangerous times. What's worse is that the gang of crooks in power shamelessly lie but there's opposition but not in parliament but people like John Deed and you and me and the rest of our friends. It isn't easy but it has to be done," Helen said, finishing with a determined set to her mouth.
"We've been getting more and more towards the big time," intervened Nikki dreamily with a faraway look in her eyes."First it was a corrupt prison officer on G Wing, then it was busting loose the court injustice of my imprisonment, then it was a whole series of injustices done to Sally-Anne, Karen and then you. Then we were accomplices to John Deed's fight in the legal system. We and our friends supported him on his picket line and marched with him against the war in Iraq. Then we sat back and raised our daughter to be individual and free of needless hangups..."
"...And now we've run up against the riots where it's not clear cut and that challenges our thinking as never before," Helen concluded insightfully. Nikki squeezed her lover's hand gratefully. she had cut to the heart of the matter in more ways than one.
"So what do you make of it darling? I've done most of the talking so far."
"This government is even more complacent and out of touch than the last lot- like a blown up version of Stubberfield. it's needed a good kick up the backside just as I needed it when that last riot kicked off when we were in Larkhall Prison. I've never entirely forgotten the time when those on high tried to nail me under the Official Act when I happened to be your partner and you'd written inconvenient truths about Larkhall Prison. That was downright criminal and out of all proportion, the same as some of these prison sentences. There's been a total collapse in moral authority in the establishment- the 'what can we get away with' culture that John Deed describes so well. That's so different from the way we were brought up to tell the truth and got rightfully punished if you break the rules. You look at MPs who fiddle expenses, banks who recklessly gambled with other people's money, control freak politicians who can't stand being disagreed with and lastly the hang them and flog them brigade who've had a field day recently. Ultimately, they brought everything on themselves. My problem is that I don't like one bit the people who got hurt and their property destroyed but haven't you got to ask yourself exactly what lit the spark?" Helen held forth in decisive tones, feeling their good friend's spiritual presence in the air.
"That's a good question. There's the obvious suspects at the shooting and at the demonstration set the spark but there was a hell of a lot of burnable material lying around. There's the machismo of the gang culture with not enough love in their hearts- like the Peckham Boot are howling inequalities in life and celebrity culture telling you you're incomplete without the right kind of trainers so those without money get hold of them illegally. It's easy enough for us to avoid these traps but will society learn?" Nikki said questioningly.
"Good question. We'll carry on doing our bit where we can but we need to look after each other and our own needs or we'll burn ourselves out. Anyway, enough of putting the world outside to rights,"answered Helen with her green eyes glowing with knowledge and love as she shifted the focus around. This conclusion made Nikki admire how mentally nimble her partner was now that they'd found peace.
"Your intelligence is really sexy. It always has been," murmured Nikki with that attractive lilt in her voice. It changed the atmosphere.
The two women turned to face each other and slipped into each other's arms. They felt very emotional. They'd loved and cared for each other for so long. Helen had born Nikki's baby who'd grown up to charm and amaze them. Helen looked into her lover's brown eyes, so deep she could drown in them as they looked unflinchingly at the world around her. Nikki looked into her lover's green eyes that could sparkle with humour yet spoke the truth of her passionate nature. The lights were turned down low and the air was warm and scented.
"Do you remember when we first kissed darling?"Nikki murmured softly, their foreheads touching.
"Sweetheart, I felt got at from all sides and you were my last and only refuge but I must have secretly wanted you which helped me go into your cell. Aside from fears of failing in my duty and facing my true sexuality, I never knew that another woman could kiss me so sweetly," Helen murmured back
They kissed each other slowly and softly all over again. With their shared love, they'd at least make a damn good try at saving the world..