Was the Riot Act read?

Was the Riot Act actually read during the Peace Day disturbances in Luton? The Luton Reporter newspaper questioned whether it had been, and no mention of a Riot Act reading was made in any court cases.

In its edition of July 22nd, 1919, the newspaper reported: “Matters got to such a pass after midnight that the reading of the Riot Act was seriously contemplated, and many assert this was actually done, but in official quarters reticence is observed on the subject.

“We can only say that we have been unable to find anybody who says that they heard it read. If such were the case there can be no question that the circumstances justified such a procedure because the crowd seemed distraught and quite beyond any appeal to reason.”

Chief Constable Charles Griffin finally answered the Riot Act question in evidence to Luton magistrates on July 30th. He said: "About five minutes to three [on July 20th] the military arrived in small numbers, which were subsequently increased, and the streets cleared. A magistrate was fetched out of bed at three o'clock or so, but the Riot Act was not read."

[The Riot Act was required to be read by a JP, who could include the Mayor as chief magistrate. Police enforced the Riot Act, but were not empowered to read it out. In a riot in Luton in 1895, the then Deputy Mayor Asher Hucklesby was recorded as having read the Riot Act.]