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Rioters Face Losing Council Home

Date: (23 September 2011)    |    

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Duncan Lewis:Following the 2011 London riots there was something of a furore in the coalition government over what were seen as draconian measures on the part of Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, and his decision to administer tough justice to the perpetrators. One of the ‘draconian’ measures the Housing Minister announced was the ordering of ‘visitors from hell’ from their social housing if they were in it, which brought a backlash upon him from the Liberal Democrat ranks in the government. Legal experts were also quick to voice their concerns that the government’s response was, in some cases, out of all proportion to the seriousness of the offences perpetrated by individual rioters caught on CCTV and arrested afterwards.

The standard legislation was and is that people housed by the council or in other forms of social accommodation can, if they cause an undue nuisance to their neighbours and the local community, be evicted by their social landlords or by the town hall, under legislation designed to deal with anti-social behaviour.

In normal circumstances this legislation is applicable to tenants on their own housing estates and is not designed for the eviction of rioters and looters who commit their offences in boroughs other than the ones in which they live. Mr Shapps stated that such ‘neighbours from hell’ who successfully transformed themselves into ‘visitors from hell’ to other neighbourhoods should feel the full force of the legislation just as if they were committing their crimes on their own turf, rather than escape eviction through legal loopholes.

Mr Shapps rejected the opinion that he was a hardliner, and said that the government had used the riots as an opportunity to review the interactions between a society that provides benefits to individuals and the responsibilities of the individuals in return for this. He pointed out that there is an unwritten contract between the wider society and some individuals that those in need will be helped, but that there are certain responsibilities to be expected in return, and destroying the livelihoods of others means that looters and rioters who are in social housing have forfeited their rights in this respect.

Wandsworth Council, which was Conservative-run, became the first in the UK to instigate eviction proceedings linked to rioting, and other London councils such as Westminster and Greenwich – as well as councils in other cities in which rioting occurred – were quick to follow suit and at least consider riot-linked evictions of their tenants. Solicitors such as Duncan Lewis represent tenants and councils or landlords where proposed eviction is based on rioting activity.

There were almost 2,000 arrests in London alone following the 2011 riots in cities across the UK, and more than 1,000 people were charged with looting and disorder offences. They subsequently appeared in courts across the capital and received often tough sentences, with housing solicitors frequently becoming involved in cases where councils sought tenant eviction based on involvement in the rioting in other boroughs.