‘Rioters’ are identified by Haverstock and Hampstead schools
Head says he is duty bound to put names to CCTV faces
Published: October 13, 2011
by GEORGIA GRAHAM
PUPILS have been arrested for riot offences after being identified by their schools from CCTV images.
Police confirmed this week that four teenagers face charges relating to August's riots after officers received help from Haverstock and Hampstead secondary schools.
Images of suspects had been circulated through Camden’s schools as part of the police investigation.
Jacques Szemalikowski, headteacher at Hampstead School in Westbere Road, defended the school’s actions saying it was “duty bound” to work with the police. Numerous attempts to contact John Dowd, head of Haverstock, were made yesterday (Wednesday) but he could not be reached.
Mr Szemalikowski said: “If the police are pursuing any criminal investigation we are duty bound to be willing to help them. It is in the interest of society, pupils and the parents of our pupils and the school as a whole. If the police are pursuing a criminal act and come to us as part of their investigation then clearly we are duty bound to help them.”
He added: “Our helping the police is a small part of our school’s wider discussion of the riots which includes education, assemblies and discussion. My first assembly of the year was about how to protest and a reflection on what happened in Camden and across London.”
He said: “One of the things we never do at Hampstead is keep well out of things or sweep important things under the carpet – instead we need a robust and honest reaction and discussion. In this case we clearly should have co-operated with the police – and it is important to remember these people may not be guilty and they may well be exonerated.”
But the role of schools in the detective work has been described as a “hot potato”. Belsize councillor Johnny Bucknell said schools who identified their own students for the riots were treading a “fine line”.
“Would I be happy as a parent if my child was in trouble with the police – and I, as a concerned parent, was trying to convince them to hand themselves in on moral grounds only to find the school has told the police? I don’t think I’d be a happy bunny,” he said.
He added: “This is a real hot potato issue. It is a fine line between the school helping the police with their inquiries as part of their duty of care and the pupils being left with a burning sense of resentment and a serious breakdown in their relationship with their teachers.”
There were chaotic scenes in Chalk Farm Road and Camden High Street on August 8 as groups of rioters fought a running battle with police and looted shops. Joseph Wright, lawyer at Hodge Jones & Allen, one of the biggest legal firms in Camden, said that the help schools provided could have “wide-ranging consequences” for their students.
He said that the schools would not have been compelled by the police to help them identify the rioters. “It is a conflict for them – they have a duty of care to their students and they have to make the decision about whether it is in their student’s interest to get imprisoned,” he said. “People are getting sent to prison for these offences for a number of months if not years – even youths.”
Andrew Baisley, branch secretary of Camden NUT, issued a word of caution last night. He said that it was possible police officers who work in the schools rather than school staff were the ones helping with the investigation which, he said, would amount to “no clear school involvement”.
Camden’s operation Withern, with 11 officers, has been working through 2,500 hours of council CCTV footage in a bid to identify and track down rioters. This week they have released 20 images of their most wanted offenders.
Officers said that they had been arresting rioters at a rate of about six a week. Fifty-six people have been charged so far with 91 offences – 24 with violent disorder. The age range of those charged is between 15 and 35 and some travelled to Camden from as far a field as Enfield, south and south-east London.
Five rioters have already been sentenced since the disorder including two under-18s.
Police said during a press briefing on Thursday that images had been circulated to Camden’s schools. A spokeswoman said: “The schools that have helped with the investigation are Haverstock and Hampstead.”