Evict the Rioters?

A significant number of councils, all of which Labour, have announced they may evict tenants who are found guilty of the rioting and looting over recent days. I’ve picked up Greenwich, Barking and Dagenham, Manchester and Salford coming out with this announcement.

This is undoubtedly a very tough line.

I think tough actions should be taken against those who caused incredible damage to communities, mostly their own communities, across London in recent days. People, even if they face poverty and disadvantage, have choices and responsibilities. The first of those responsibilities is to obey the law. 

As Red Brick has constantly argued those who are worse off in society, many of whom live in social housing, are not ‘passive’, ‘impotent’, ‘dependent’, ‘trapped’ but people who shape the world around them, try to better their lot and contribute to their community, most often in positive ways that belie their circumstances.

Occasionally, a tiny minority choose to act in destructive ways and in the past few days, we’ve seen that on an incredible and entirely unpredicted scale.

Poverty, alienation and pessimism about the future are undoubtedly a major part of what has gone on in recent days – and as Steve says condemnation can only be one part of our response. But, for the sake of the many people who share those challenges, but choose not to riot and loot, we must ensure those who have sought to wreck their neighbourhoods face the law’s toughest penalties.

As for eviction, I can see both sides:

Why should those who have committed such grievous crimes against the public realm get the benefit of such a valuable public good, which is in such short supply? There are plenty of others in need and law-abiding who might make better use of those tenancies. And why should people in social housing be subject to neighbours who’ve acted in such destructive ways in the estates and street where they live?

But shouldn’t those who are guilty of crimes face criminal penalties – prison, fines, and community orders? We wouldn’t withdraw public services like health or education and it reinforces the idea that a good stable home is not something that people should have by right, and is of a second order importance compared to healthcare or education. Is it fair that rioting social tenants may face eviction, but those who own their home or rent privately are unaffected?

On balance, evictions are probably counter-productive – the process being long and drawn out and the fact that the rioters will have to move elsewhere in circumstances that may make such behaviour worse and more likely.

Perhaps in this case community orders might have a particular role – so sentences can be carried out in the communities where crimes took place and local residents can see that justice is being done.

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10 Responses to Evict the Rioters?

  1. Pingback: ‘British Justice’ : Forcing Infants & Children Into Homeless for Others’ Crimes « aseerun

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  5. Sheila Spencer says:

    Sorry, I meant the first comment.

  6. Sheila Spencer says:

    I entirely agree with the last comment. There already are sanctions that can be applied for criminal activities, and parents can be faced with losing their tenancy if they allow their son or daughter (or another family member of guest) to create a nuisance to neighbours. It’s all about behaving reasonably as a tenant, and our current laws allow parents to be warned and even helped to get their children to behave reasonably, before applying this very serious sanction.

    Taking away the right to have somewhere to live as a punishment for crimes that do not relate to being a tenant goes too far, particularly as this could affect the whole family. And how could the County Court distinguish between a family where the parents have not tried to address the behaviour of their son/daughter and those who have (like the parent who persuaded their son to hand himself in for stealing a packet of chewing gum)? Miscarriages of justice would be pretty common, especially if actions are taken in haste.

    Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, making a family move out of the social rented sector into private rented accommodation is likely to cost the state more in Housing Benefit. What sense does this make?

  7. Pingback: Simplistic solutions are not the answer | Red Brick

  8. DaftAida says:

    The State will not tolerate any insurgence against its statutes and this small surge of wanton thuggery provides just the excuse it has been itching to bandwagon for total social control. In much the same way, those participating in looting and violence were simply amplifying their day to day activities as a part of their lifestyle with the usual disregard for others. Should they be evicted? Not unless they are proven to have caused damage to their properties, their neighbour’s properties, livelihoods or life. And with eviction, they have to be contained somewhere ……. violent morons that they are; it’s all they are capable of in terms of protest that they can’t afford designer brand trainers! Who cares?

    That said, it has to be wondered whether the ringleading ‘plants’ will ever be identified or who they were working for. We are led to believe that these riots were spontaneous but in loose connection to a suspected unlawful killing. This assumption is not necessarily fact.

    What is fact is that the economic system is outrageously corrupt and manipulated by those beyond description but who are represented through parliament and the judicial system.

    However. It is very dangerous to levy social compliance by authorities via the threat of eviction. There are very many legitimate causes for protest and wholly lawful ways of making those protests (including the right to riot) bear weight and if those performing a public or social service continue on their rise to infamy as ‘authorities’, they are granted the power to evict over the slightest lawful resistence or dissent. This is dictatorship; where people have to earn the right to housing through complete submission to the state.

    We, deluded that democracy means something other than a cloak beneath which socialist policies are enacted, are about to have our eyes opened as to the true extent of corruption within our services.

    Instead of the debate being brought to the fore about the issuing of firearms to our police, this huge hallabaloo is guaranteed to press for more armed police or army on our streets. Nice move.

  9. Paul Lusk says:

    Eviction can only happen on certain legal grounds for breach of tenancy agreement. For a household member to commit a criminal offence unrelated to the occupancy of the home is not a ground for eviction. This talk of eviction is, mostly, bluster which does not contribute to rebuilding the credibility of political institutions.

  10. Anon says:

    I can’t support this idea either in principle or in practice.

    In principle this is a job for the justice system, not the housing system. Whilst tenants can of course be evicted at present, it’s because their actions or behaviour has made it untenable for them to continue to live there (that they’re not paying their rent, are making other people’s lives miserable through ASB or are not responsibly looking after their home). It is not the role of housing to start administering “punishment” for wrongdoing.

    It also fundamentally undermines the value of housing – as alluded above, we’re not considering expelling young people from school for their role in the riots, what makes evicting them from their home so different?

    And practice, how can this help? What will happen to those evicted, and their families? The net result can only be more disenfranchisement, more poverty, and ultimately more criminality.

    Those involved in the riots must face justice – but evicting them from their homes is not justice.

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