These riots were not about government cuts: they were directed at high street stores, not Parliament.
And these riots were not about poverty: that insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this.
England rioters: young, poor and unemployed
Guardian data project reveals link between economic hardship and those taking part in last week's riots
Matthew Taylor, Simon Rogers and Paul Lewis
Thursday 18 August 2011 21.28 BST
David Cameron said this week that the riots "were not about poverty", but the Guardian's database of court cases raises the question that there may be, at the very least, a correlation between economic hardship and those accused of taking part in last week's violence and looting.
Based on unprecedented access to information from magistrates courts across England, the Guardian's data project gives a new insight into the riots, shedding light on those accused of involvement, from their age and gender to the length of sentences being handed down.
The data also highlights geographical differences during last week's unrest. In London, the evidence suggests rioters often looted shops and businesses in or near the areas where they lived. In cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, in contrast, the data appears to indicate that suspects travelled from their homes on the outskirts of the cities, or in some cases satellite towns, to riot and loot in the city centres.
One of the most striking features to emerge is the proportion of those who have appeared in court so far who come from deprived neighbourhoods.
A Liverpool University urban planning lecturer, Alex Singleton, analysed the Guardian's preliminary data by overlaying the addresses of defendants with the poverty indicators mapped by England's Indices of Multiple Deprivation, which breaks the country into small geographical areas.
He found that the majority of people who have appeared in court live in poor neighbourhoods, with 41% of suspects living in one of the top 10% of most deprived places in the country. The data also shows that 66% of neighbourhoods where the accused live got poorer between 2007 and 2010.
Singleton said: "Rioting is deplorable. However, if events such as this are to be mitigated in the future, the prevailing conditions and constraints affecting people living in areas must form part of the discussion. A 'broken society' happens somewhere, and geography matters."
The findings are backed up by research carried out by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) published this week. The thinktank looked at the relationship between different indicators of poverty and deprivation and the boroughs where violence and looting took place.
Researchers found that in almost all of the worst-affected areas, youth unemployment and child poverty were significantly higher than the national average while education attainment was significantly lower.
"Child poverty rates in local authorities where riots flared are stubbornly high," it stated. "While poverty is no excuse for criminality, it places additional pressure on families not only to make ends meet but also to spend time together … The political debate is likely to rage on for some time but there is also an urgent need to understand what is happening in communities where violence flared."
The Guardian's analysis is based on unprecedented access to court results granted by the Ministry of Justice. After a request from the Guardian it instructed all courts to provide full lists of results for all riot-related cases. These have been compiled by the individual courts and have never before been released on such a scale.
The lists give details of the inner workings of England's lower tier courts and record each defendant's name, age, address, charge, plea and sentence – as well as whether the case is remanded in jail or committed to the crown court for a jury trial.
The Guardian has been given detailed reports from 1,000 cases covering all the major courts dealing with riot-related offences: Westminster, Camberwell, Highbury and Croydon in London, plus Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. Reports from another 14 magistrates courts around England have also been collated by reporters.
Statistics from the MoJ show that 1,297 suspects had had an initial hearing at a magistrates court up to midday on 17 August. The majority of these hearings – 65% – were in London. The Metropolitan police reported that around half of the people who have appeared in court so far in London are under the age of 18. The MoJ says that in cases where the age of the defendant is known, 17% are under 18.
The Guardian database adds further detail to these statistics and appears to confirm that the accused are overwhelmingly young, male and often unemployed.
According to the data collected so far, 66% of those who have appeared in court are aged under 25 – with 17% aged between 11 and 17. Only a very small number in our data were aged over 30. More than 90% are male.
More than two-thirds of those in the Guardian's data set were remanded in prison, with 39% being passed to crown courts for trial or sentencing.
Less than 10% of cases collated by the Guardian were given a sentence after their first appearance and there have only been a handful of cases where bail has been granted – mainly where the accused was under 18.
Of those who have been sent to prison the average length of sentence is four months and there have only been a few fines, mainly involving a group of 18-year-olds from Liverpool who were arrested by police for wearing face masks.
The accused have been charged mainly with theft, handling stolen goods, burglary or violent disorder. No charge of riot – which is a separate offence – has yet been identified. The Guardian plans to continue refining the analysis as more data is collected.