PM blasts ‘unacceptable’ social media craze that led to Oxford Street looting

Rishi Sunak warned that the ‘full force of the law’ will be applied to those taking part in antisocial and criminal flashmobs organised online.

The Prime Minister has blasted the organising on social media of looting and disruption as “appalling” and “unacceptable”.

Rishi Sunak warned youngsters tempted to get involved in future antisocial and criminal flashmobs that they will be “met with the full force of the law”.

It comes after young people gathered in London’s Oxford Street last week in a suspected TikTok-inspired raid of shops following a viral shoplifting call on the social media platform.

Footage showed police wielding batons in a clash with dozens of young men and wrestling some of them away, while officers on horseback helped to disperse hundreds of people in Europe’s busiest shopping street on Wednesday.

West End stores were forced to close their shutters and lock customers inside during the looting bid, which was reportedly inspired by a social media craze encouraging people to take part in an “Oxford Street JD robbery”.

The Metropolitan Police arrested nine people and issued 34 dispersal orders during the incident.

Mr Sunak, asked what he made of the incident in the capital, which occurred while he was on holiday in the US, told broadcasters: “I have got to say it is appalling. Criminal damage, criminal behaviour is unacceptable.

“I fully support the police in bringing those people to justice.

“I want anyone watching who is thinking about this, who sees something like this, to know that they will be met with the full force of the law.

“Because that type of behaviour is simply unacceptable in our society.”

His comments come after Donna Jones, chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), said social media crazes were a sign of “societal breakdown”.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Oxford Street looting flashmob was ‘appalling’ (Euan Duff/PA)

She said parents should be disciplining their children and teaching them that such acts are “morally abhorrent” to prevent further incidents.

The Conservative Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, as well as referencing the Oxford Street incident, also highlighted a craze in Southampton in which a “handful” of 15 to 17-year-olds took paracetamol to see who could stay in hospital the longest.

The former magistrate told the PA news agency: “This is incredibly worrying, and somebody needs to call it out.

“This is mindless vandalism, and it’s also criminal activity in terms of shoplifting and theft, looting, mass looting.

“This is taking away police hours from operational policing that they should be doing to keep genuine people that need protecting safe.

“We need to send a clear message – this is not acceptable and the parents need to be held accountable.”

Donna Jones
Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire Donna Jones said TikTok needed to do more to crack down on the promotion of unlawful behaviour (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Ms Jones called for parents to be forced to pay the fines for the criminal behaviour of their children under the age of 16, or under 18 if in full-time education.

She also suggested social media companies such as TikTok should investigate and crack down on posts orchestrating flashmobs that encourage criminal behaviour.

A TikTok spokeswoman said: “We have zero tolerance for content facilitating or encouraging criminal activities.

“We have over 40,000 safety professionals dedicated to keeping TikTok safe – if we find content of this nature, we remove it and actively engage with law enforcement on these issues.”

The APCC is the national membership body for police and crime commissioners and other local policing bodies across England and Wales.

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