According to the Riot (Damages) Act of 1886, the police could be responsible for the costs of the insurance companies and the uninsured. This could mean that police funds are completely used up in order to cover the costs, estimated now at over £100 million.
The Association of Police Authorities (APA) commented on this, saying that the Riot Act was “out of date”. However, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), set to gain from the law, said that it had worked well for 125 years.
The loss and damage is estimated at hundreds of millions of pounds. Several businesses and householders who did not have insurance or had policies that did not cover their damage could use the Riot Act to claim money back for their loss and damage, provided they notify their local authority of intention to claim within 14 days of the damage or loss. Insurers may also attempt to make claims, as they will face massive losses as well.
The APA said that some insurance policies held exemption clauses for riots, and would not be liable to pay—though the ABI assured policyholders that most policies would cover their costs. The APA argued with the ABI over the Riot Act, saying that there was no sense in police funds being spent on repair bills when officers and equipment were still so needed.
Deputy chair of the APA, Ann Barnes, called for government financial assistance as “emergency help”, and reacted to the Riot Act news as nonsensical, saying, “”It seems to me a nonsense that when policing is facing unprecedented cuts and meeting the costs of ongoing disorder, it must also bear the brunt of paying for criminal damage because of an out of date law.”
Following the riot in the Yarls Wood detention centre in 2002, the police were found liable, in accordance with the Act, for £38 million worth of claims. They were unable to cover the costs then and, according to the APA, unable to do so now, especially with their own financial circumstances.
However, the ABI said the law gave a “safety net” for those without insurance and ensured that insurance premiums did not rise each year or after these rare events. The association said, “This compensation scheme has existed on the statute books since 1886 with its operation having stood the test of time for the last 125 years.
“The scheme means that people do not have to pay higher premiums every year to insure their home or business because of a riot which may only happen once every 30 years.”
According to the Home Office, claims can currently still be made, as the Riot Act is still law. However, they are looking as quickly as possible at options for reform or updates to the law.