Now that most sides have offered their analysis and the justice processes are reaching their conclusions, I am posting an edited version of a private briefing I wrote in September 2011, drawn from the perspective of contacts working in charities with young people in affected communities, crime diversion and offender resettlement charities and justice professionals, as well as young people who took part in the rioting and those who refused to, right across the country.
I have only changed the substance of the text to include a note of the interim report from HM government's somewhat limited Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, which was issued in November 2011, followed by a more considered analysis with recommendations in a final report in March 2012. In my view the consultation was not wide enough on the ground, tended to manage upwards towards policy concerns and possibilities, and did not look at the riots in proportion, or in comparison with earlier instances of social unrest (as distinct from political demonstration), from which the necessary lessons from successful preventive measures could be drawn. Neither was there sufficient recognition of the power and effectiveness of a host of voluntary and philanthropic interventions across the rest of the UK which, arguably, contributed to greater social cohesion and peace there, despite comparably adverse social and economic conditions and prospects. The Guardian also offered a searching and sustained reading of the riots, and with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation sponsored a research project at the London School of Economics, which issued a report in December 2011 called, Reading the Riots. At first this appeared limited, too, as it was a thorough presentation of findings from the viewpoints of participants in the disorder, leading to accusations of one-sidedness and of defending the indefensible. But subsequent phases have been consulting the police, prosecutors and judges; and now there are local "Community Conversations" under way, taking into account the grievances of disadvantaged areas and the views of those adversely affected by the rioting of their neighbours. This will lead to a second report, which will doubtless offer, in the light of the first report, a rounded view of causes, events and the solutions that will tend to prevent their recurrence.
The reflection I wrote can be found on the Social Development page, or here.