It is a sad fact that the scars of the rioting in London and across the country this week will remain raw for long after the unbelievable lawlessness on our streets is quelled.
They are scars not only to the environment, with stores and property razed to the ground by arsonists, but scars also to the lives of millions of decent people.
People have watched with incredulity an unprecedented explosion of disorder so serious and so terrifying that it beggars belief.
Many have been directly affected, with their homes and businesses targeted in circumstances in which the police were clearly unable to come to the rescue.
It goes without saying that this criminality must be stopped, for it threatens the very fabric of our society.
It also goes without saying that the perpetrators are wanton criminals with no regard for anything that is good in life. The Prime Minister and his Home Secretary spent rather too long yesterday emphasising to the British public that we were seeing criminals at work, as if we had not realised that already.
What decent people are more concerned about is what is to be done to restore order and the rule of law.
Gosport’s Tory MP Caroline Dinenage is just one of many people who believe the government has been slow to react to the unfolding crisis. We agree with her.
Last night, 16,000 police officers were deployed in London – 10,000 more than on Monday night, when gangs rampaged unchallenged in many parts of the capital.
The question to be answered is why such action was not taken earlier, why the master plan that must exist for a massive breakdown in law and order was not robust enough to see far more response far earlier.
The days ahead might see further action. The government must do whatever it must do to restore order.
But, in doing so, it must not permanently infringe the basic freedoms we all enjoy in this country. It is, we accept, a difficult balance to achieve, but the majority must not be punished along with the lawless minority.
The Tory PM was speaking outside Downing Street after two hours of meetings with Cobra, Acting Metropolitan police chief Tim Godwin, and Home Secretary Theresa May this morning.
But despite condemning the three nights of rioting, which started in London and on Monday night spread to Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and parts of Kent, as ‘acts of criminality’, he stopped short of promising either to use the army, or watercannon, to attempt to impose order in the capital.
He said: ‘We will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets and make them safe for the law abiding citizens. We completely condemn these sickening scenes. People are looting, vandalising, robbing, stealing attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews as they attempt to put out fires. It’s criminality, pure and simple. And it must be confronted and defeated.
‘The police are doing a good job on the streets but it’s clear we need even more police on the streets. There were 6,000 on the streets of London last night, and there will be 16,000 officers tonight. All leave has been cancelled, and aid is coming from other forces across the country.’
Mr Cameron also hinted at jail sentences even for rioters who are under the age of 18.
He said: ‘If you are old enough to commit the crime, you are old enough to face punishment. We will make sure the court process is sped up and there will be many more arrests in days to come. Justice will be done. People will see the consequences of their actions. To the people who are rioting I would say it is not just the lives of others, and your communities you are damaging, you’re damaging your own lives.’
He also confirmed Parliament will be recalled on Thursday, where he will deliver a statement and to give politicians the chance ‘to stand together in condemnation of these crimes and in determination to bring the people who committed them to justice.’