Saturday, 27 November 2010

Riot damages

It is interesting to note that until the administrative reforms of the 19th Century, people had to pay for their own riots. That is, the Hundred had to tax it's inhabitants for the costs of damage caused by riots within its boundaries. This rather neat and very English arrangement ensured people would physically protect their own Hundreds from damage from outsiders rioting there - or else hold a retaliatory riot on their neighbour's Hundred to even things up. Like many sensible arrangements, it was ditched when the Hundreds were dis-empowered.


You might expect insurers these days to pick up the costs of riot damage - but this isn't the case. Sandwiched in the exclusion clauses between Radioactivity and Terrorism is Riot. For the insurers to refuse a claim, of course, it has to be a 'proper' riot, not just half a dozen thugs smashing the place up but:
12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.[s.1 Public Order Act 1986]
So who pays for the damage?


It seems the police do. Or rather, the police settle the claims made to them under the 1886 Riot and Damages Act, and we pay. As always. The owners of Millbank and their tenants, the Tory Party, are therefore set to get a first class building and office refurb at the taxpayer's expense. One can see some potential here ....


"Commander? Sir Cyril Tweep, Chairman of Ludgate here. Look, I wonder if you could do me a small favour... what? No, no, not young Jack's cocaine thing again. The fact is, I've got 20,000 square feet of a 1974 block that I just can't shift and we can't afford to remodel it at the moment. The lads have been busy on Facebook and I think we've got a riot going for Saturday; got at least three dozen from the LSE and we've had ads in 'Socialist Worker' all month. We've left sledge hammers and axes conveniently piled in reception together with about thirty gallons of lighter fluid, so we should be OK. Now the thing is, we need to be sure your lads don't intervene too early and muck the whole thing up; if you can hold them back like you did at Millbank, until they really get hold of the place .... yes, you will? Splendid! And the usual 5% kick back on the damages settlement, of course."

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