London: Thugs did not play a pivotal role in the London riots, striking a blow to the Cameron government's view that tackling gang culture is key to preventing repeat of disturbances that dent Britain's image.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Home Office background analysis shows that those arrested during the August 4-9 riots overwhelmingly came from deprived areas and had the poorest educational backgrounds.

The official figures show that 13 percent of those arrested in the riots have been identified as gang members, rising to 19 percent in London, but the analysis shows that even where the police identified gang members being present most forces believe they did not play a pivotal role.

"The details of the nationalities of those jailed will provide further weight to claims the riots had little to do with political protest but instead represented opportunist criminality," The Guardian reported.

Thieves and vandals convicted of causing millions of pounds worth of damage during the disorder came from 44 countries, including Iraq, Jamaica, Poland and Ethiopia, according to the report.

A wave of rioting, looting and arson spread from Londonto parts of the East and West Midlands, Merseyside, Bristol, Manchester and Gloucester after a 29-year-old youth was shot dead by police in Totterham. Five people died during the riots, viewed as one of the worst in living memory.

Newly released prison statistics show that 14 percent - roughly one in seven – of those jailed for robbery, theft, criminal damage, burglary and disorder during the riots were
born abroad, The Telegraph said.

More than two-thirds of the young people involved were classed as having special educational needs and one-third had been excluded from school in the past year.

The analysis shows that the ethnic backgrounds of those brought before the courts for riot-related offences were in line with the local population, with 42 percent of defendants white and 46 percent black. Only 7 percent were Asian.

The finding by senior Whitehall officials is a blow to the principal response to the riots being pushed strongly by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith – that tackling gang culture is key to preventing any repeat of the disturbances, the papers noted.

Appalled by the riots, Prime Minister David Cameron and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles both had said that they thought plans to evict rioters from social housing was a good idea to punish them. The riots had cost the taxpayer over 133 million pounds in policing and compensation for businesses hit by the violence.

(Agencies)