No, don’t think I like this, don’t think I like this at all

Government plans to reform the Riot Damages Act could result in a huge fall in payouts to business owners after any future unrest and would leave most drivers unable to claim compensation, the insurance industry has claimed.

On the eve of the third anniversary of the outbreak of rioting in Tottenham, north London, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that had the planned changes to compensation been in place in 2011 only £1 would have been paid out for every £10 worth of damage.

Under the original 1886 act, businesses with property damaged in unrest can make a claim to the police for compensation regardless of their size; those without insurance apply directly, while those with cover are paid by their insurer, which then reclaims the money.

The new rules would stop compensation going to companies with a turnover of more than £2m – as well as not reimbursing their insurers. It would also stop compensation for loss of business.

The government’s consultation document shows that by June £60m in compensation had been paid for damage in the August 2011 riots, with 90% of that going to insurance firms. The ABI said stopping payments for larger businesses would force insurers to reprice for the risk of riots, which would lead to high premiums or excesses, or riot damage being excluded from policies.

There would still be payouts for damage to vehicles not covered by fully comprehensive insurance, but the ABI said this would leave 96% of motorists unable to claim.

And I don’t like it for a fairly fundamental reason.

The State claims the monopoly of legitimate violence in our society. That means that keeping the peace is the responsibility of that State. A riot is, obviously, a failure of that responsibility. That’s why damages from riots were paid for by said State in the first place: and I don’t see anything in that chain of logic that has changed to make us desire a different system. The police should stop riots. They didn’t: thus it’s the police rates that pay for the damage they didn’t prevent.

Incentives do matter after all. It’s not quite as good as taking the damages out of police pay but it’s better than no incentive at all.

33 comments on “No, don’t think I like this, don’t think I like this at all

  1. You know you’re in trouble when the State wants to take more and more authority and less and less responsibility.

  2. This will just further incentivise “anti corporation” black flaggers to go after big business premises.

    So, do we know who’s been lobbying the government to implement these changes?

  3. Even more incentive for them to stand and watch all the fun rather than risk injury doing what they are paid to do. The police serve themselves first and foremost and their political masters second. Any benefit the public gets is because it coincides with the interests of the coppers and pollies.

  4. ” The police should stop riots.”
    No, no, no Tim. That’s a very old fashioned, “Peelian” view of Policing. Every modern copper knows that crime and disorder is not a “Failure of Policing” but is instead a “Failure of Society”. Therefore, why should they have to pay when it’s someone elses fault?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_Principles

  5. Insurance companies will respond by red lining entire commercial districts which will then become uninvestable and derelict in due course.

    If that is what the Government wants they are daft.

  6. What Pete said.

    Assuming that in future we see more – ahem – “protests” – from “youths” in this glorious multicultural paradise (and rioting seems to be almost an annual event in Paris and some other blessedly diverse European cities these days) – then weakening the incentives for businesses to remain in troubled areas will only help further entrench poverty in our own mini-Detroits and petit Clichy-sous-Boises.

    The government planning to reduce its financial responsibilities doesn’t suggest a high degree of confidence that rioting will be swiftly quashed in future.

    Perhaps they plan to erect some peace walls to protect the nicer parts of London.

  7. If they can’t or won’t stop riots then they should allow us to arm ourselves. The same is true of burglary.

  8. Yes, it’s a State failure, but then doesn’t the same argument apply to burglary? Should that be State compensated as well?

  9. “If they can’t or won’t stop riots then they should allow us to arm ourselves. The same is true of burglary.”
    Bollocks to them ‘allowing’ me, I am tooled up now and all this does is make it extremely unlikely that I will even call the police in the event. People want to take what little I have? They get to take the consequences too!

  10. “Bollocks to them ‘allowing’ me”: I think you’re being a bit dim there. The advantages of the legality of owning, say, a revolver are that (i) it means that the owner is not himself breaking the law, (ii) the burglars and rioters would know that they routinely face the risk of firearms being deployed against them, (iii) it would probably oblige the government to define more clearly what uses of a revolver are legal. I don’t think that the risk that you are burgling an armed psychopathic biker is much of a deterrent: the risk that even many little-old-ladies might shoot you would be a deterrent.

  11. Richard & Robert – the police aren’t stationed outside your house 24/7/365 in case a man in a stripy jumper with a bag marked ‘swag’ comes along.

    But when a large crowd of excitable ethnic youths gather, Molotov cocktails in hand, we expect them to turn up ASAP and resolve the situation.

    Not hang back until their diversity officer can be rousted out of bed to advise them on how best to show respect for the mob’s grievances..

  12. Dearieme:
    I take it you are not au faix with current firearms law then? I can still have a black powder revolver which may take a bit of reloading, but will still wipe out six scrotes before that’s needed, and I can have a flintlock pistol without even notifying the police!
    If it was easier to get the ticket, I’d have a rifle anyway.
    If you think little old ladies will go through the hassle of a pistol permit you are on drugs! Even in the US, houses get burgled, this despite the large number of guns about (80 million gun owners, 200 million guns). Funnily enough, during the Watts riots in LA and the later Larry King verdict riots in Oakland,the only downtown streets not trashed were those where the Hells Angels had their clubhouse; what was that about a deterrent again?

  13. Presumably the insurance industry doesn’t actually care for the outcome of the review. A decrease in Riot Act cover = more premiums for them. An increase in Riot Act cover = less payouts for them.

    I am conflicted. On the one hand I think a riot is evidence of the community authorities failing and there should be held to account for it in a meaningful way. On the other hand people can get insurance themselves and should be encouraged to.

  14. Gareth,
    Either premiums in some areas would go through the roof or the firms would simply decline to insure against riot or insurrection!

  15. Forcing people into a duty to support the State without any concomitant responsibility in the other direction to protect those people is feudalism.

  16. I can have a flintlock pistol without even notifying the police!

    I don’t think that’s true, at least for modern reproductions.

    As I understand the current laws, being an owner of flintlock and matchlock muskets, if the flintlock pistol has a long enough barrel (24″, and obviously if it has a smooth bore) then it qualifies as a shotgun. You still need to hold a shotgun licence, and you still need to inform the rozzers that you have it. If it doesn’t qualify as a shotgun, then it requires a slot on a firearms licence.

    An antique muzzle loading weapon doesn’t require a licence, but also must not be used. If you want to use them, then you need the relevant licence.

    And once you have the pistol, you then need an additional licence to store the black powder (an ‘Acquire and Keep’). Your magazine would then also require regular inspections.

  17. @ Gareth

    Insurance works on the basis that if there are too many claims in an area then you will not be able to get cover at any price. No insurance cover means no loans to invest in property means dereliction in due course.

    It is very simple.

  18. @: Pete
    NO – it just means that the cover is so expensive that no-one wants to buy it.
    As you say, no insurance no loans, so property ownership ends up with old people who have lived there for umpteen years and paid off the mortgage and are unable to defend themselves. Much less dereliction until they are too feeble to do DIY repairs but much more vulnerable to looting thugs.
    CCTV is not as good a deterrent as a Hell’s Angels clubhouse but seems to work quite well at limiting non-riot burglary and vandalism..

  19. Robert the Biker: “Bollocks to them ‘allowing’ me, I am tooled up now and all this does is make it extremely unlikely that I will even call the police in the event.”

    What will you do with the bodies? How deep do you bury to keep foxes away?

    Robert the Biker: “Even in the US, houses get burgled, this despite the large number of guns about (80 million gun owners, 200 million guns). Funnily enough, during the Watts riots in LA and the later Larry King verdict riots in Oakland,the only downtown streets not trashed were those where the Hells Angels had their clubhouse; what was that about a deterrent again?”

    Not a convincing argument for gun ownership per se. All you have demonstrated is that rioters stay away from people who have a reputation for violence, not that they stay away from gun owners.

  20. What will you do with the bodies? How deep do you bury to keep foxes away?

    Aside from the Breaking Bad approach, why bother burying? Find a quiet countryside layby or road at night, dump body, pour petrol, bye bye physical evidence – you only need to get rid of any traces you may have left, not the whole thing.
    Or weight it and chuck into a decent size river, let the fishies do the work.
    If you have a friend with some pigs, they will eat them up.
    Plenty of ways to get rid that are better than burying and leave less evidence. Quicker too.

  21. You’d be snagged right away, Wasp. Petroleum residues are traceable, which, if you did not perceive that flaw in your plot, exposes you to all of the other flaws.

    Feeding the body to your mate’s pigs? Is your mate heading the same way to remove evidence? Pigs might have a go at leg and arm bones, but after taking the meat off a head well fed porkies are going to use it to play football.

    Human beings don’t eat pig skulls, but by nomenclature and processed foods we eat the flesh which resides there. We are not so stupid to crunch and guzzle on skulls. Most pigs aren’t that stupid either.

  22. “Petroleum residues are traceable”

    I’m curious – what does that mean? They can trace a burnt patch of tarmac to the individual person who bought the petrol?

  23. Bloke in Wales@
    A flintlock with a 24″ barrel would be a hell of a thing! The ones I was thinking of are 12 to 18 inches long overall, if you ever get to Hatfield House the gunsmith there has quite a collection for sale. As regards powder storage, I thought that was only if you kept over a certain amount, one pound I believe, and the conditions were not onerous. Mind you, if you ask two coppers, you get two answers and the regs are not as clear as they might be! I was thinking of a couple of replica Colt Pattersons or Dragoons in 44.40 cap and ball, with a 36 Navy to follow on with (used to have one of those).
    As far as bodies go, I’ve got a big park nearby and my own spade 🙂

  24. A pound of powder probably falls under the category of “not worth the trouble” to prosecute. But if they were looking for excuses…

  25. Robert the Biker said: “Either premiums in some areas would go through the roof or the firms would simply decline to insure against riot or insurrection!”

    Regardless of the outcome of the review the insurance industry will accommodate the changes to remain in their current level of profitability. Which is why I was intrigued that the person from the insurance industry was supporting the review. They would be largely ambivalent I would have thought.

    In encouraging more people to insure themselves what you have is a market signal about which areas need attention. For central and local government allocation of resources and attention, rather than trust the police when they say they are on top of community strife, you just look at where people are struggling to get insurance. Though I think this would lead to politicians and bureaucrats picking the marginal areas that just need a bit of attention and leave the problem areas to rot.

  26. Bloke in Wales:
    Just checked the regs again, you can have combinations of powder plus primers up to 25 Kg total with the right certs, but Pyrodex is unregulated still, so use that and be careful with your loads!

  27. So long as your muzzle loader is proofed for pyrodex!

    I’ve seen what happens when the breech explodes, and it’s not pretty. On a shotgun, your forward hand is right in the way – and I’ve met the bloke that now has half his hand missing.

  28. With Pyrodex, first you should use the right grade, pistol for pistols, rifle or smooth bore for muskets and shotguns.
    Second and most importasnt, you don’t use the same weight of charge as black powder, but the equivalent VOLUME of black powder, you can actually get measures graduated for this. If you use the same weight of charge, you end up about 30% over loaded, which I would suggest was your friends error.

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