Kirsty Walker, Daily Mail (London), August 12, 2011
An alleged rioter’s parent faces being the first in the country to be thrown out of their council house because their son was ‘involved in uprisings’.
After David Cameron called for tough justice for looters, Wandsworth Council today handed the family an eviction notice.
The tenant’s son has appeared in court accused of taking part in rioting close to Clapham Junction railway station on Monday night.
The case could be the first of many across the country as councils pore over charge sheets to see if people in their homes have been involved in civil disorder.
Wandsworth Council leader, Councillor Ravi Govindia, said: ‘We are determined to take the strongest possible action against any tenant or member of their household responsible for the truly shocking behaviour perpetrated on local homes and businesses earlier this week.
‘This council will do its utmost to ensure that those who are responsible pay a proper price for their conduct. Ultimately this could lead to eviction from their homes.
‘Our officers will continue to work with the courts to establish the identities of other council tenants or members of their households as more cases are processed in the coming days and weeks.
‘Most residents on our housing estates are decent law-abiding citizens who will have been sickened at the scenes they witnessed on their TV screens this week. Many will have seen their places of work trashed at the hands of these rioters. As much as anything else we owe it to them to send out a strong signal that this kind of violence will not be tolerated.’
The council said tenancy agreements mean all tenants, their household members and visitors are forbidden from a range of criminal and anti-social activities, and breaching the agreement can make them liable to eviction
Mr Govindia added: ‘When you move into a council property, you have to agree to comply with certain tenancy conditions. If you break those conditions you risk losing your home.
‘There is no room on our estates for people who commit violent crimes, who show no consideration for their neighbours or harass, threaten, intimidate or cause disturbance to others.’
A fresh wave of councils yesterday announced that they would kick out tenants convicted of rioting.
And Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith ordered plans to be drawn up to remove benefits from those found guilty of violent disorder.
He acted after a petition calling for the thieves to lose all their welfare handouts became the first to be passed to Parliament under a new scheme.
It gathered more than 100,000 signatures–the threshold to trigger a Commons debate.
Sources said juries could be given the power to decide whether handouts are axed, or the benefits system could be reformed so payments are automatically stopped if the recipients are convicted of certain crimes.
Mr Cameron told MPs that town halls would see their powers strengthened and hinted he could throw his weight behind measures to take away benefits.
During an emergency session of Parliament yesterday, the Prime Minister added: ‘To the lawless minority, the criminals who’ve taken what they can get, I say this: We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done.’
At present, town halls can evict those that cause trouble locally. But Housing Minister Grant Shapps wants to extend this to those that travel to other areas to break the law.
He has added the plans to a consultation launched last week into tackling ‘neighbours from hell’.
Anyone who is jailed automatically loses their benefits. But Mr Duncan Smith wants to extend the sanction to those who receive non-custodial sentences.
The local authorities which said they wanted to evict tenants convicted of violence included Nottingham, Manchester, Salford, Westminster, Wandsworth, Greenwich and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Councillor Paul Andrews, Manchester City Council’s executive member for neighbourhood services, said: ‘Most people who live in our properties respect their neighbours and play by the rules. Those who do not, and who are found to be involved in this sickening criminal activity, could find their tenancies at risk.’
In Salford, council leader John Merry added: ‘We need to make sure these people understand their actions do have consequences, and the consequences for some of them could mean they lose their homes.
‘This is not a decision we take lightly, but we really must take a stand.’
Nottingham council leader Jon Collins said the authority would seek to evict anyone directly involved or whose children had been involved in disturbances. He said: ‘Parents have a responsibility to control the young people living in their home.
‘If young people living in your home have been involved in the violence over the past few days, they are putting your tenancy at risk.’
Mr Shapps said: ‘Regular people would say if you’ve gone out and you have caused such devastation to other peoples communities there is no reason why you should continue to get all the benefits, the privileges from the state that you currently enjoy.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also hinted that he could support the measure.
‘I think it’s right to say if you go out and break the law and you destroy the community in which you live, why should you simply assume that you are going to continue to be supported in living in the way that you are in that community?’ he said.
But there are fears that evicting council house tenants is likely to mean the culprits will simply move to another area and join the housing list there. Officials were unable to say yesterday how they would prevent this.
On benefits, a source said: ‘Iain Duncan Smith has asked his department to look for an effective way to sanction those responsible. We want to look at sanctioning those that get non-custodial sentences. They need to realise there are serious consequences to their behaviour.’
The source added that the benefits could only be taken away from adults, so would not affect the mothers and fathers of children convicting of looting.
If the policy is adopted it is likely any cut in benefits would be temporary and take into account an individual’s needs and offence.
The petition calling for benefits to be taken away dwarfed others on the Government’s e-petition website and has been formally passed to a backbench committee which will decide whether it should be debated.
Yesterday the website repeatedly crashed because so many were trying to access it.
The petition, submitted by Stephen Mains, says: ‘No taxpayer should have to contribute to those who have destroyed property, stolen from their community and shown a disregard for the country that provides for them.’