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Evicting Looters – A Poor Idea

Simon Binns talks to professionals about an idea that may be more bother than its worth

Published on September 4th 2011.


Evicting Looters – A Poor Idea

LOCAL Authority attempts to evict social tenants involved in the recent rioting and looting could turn out to be a costly headache, according to legal experts.

“When the dust settles, I hope they councils will decide against going through with it.”

Several councils in Greater Manchester, including Manchester, Salford and Bury, have said they may throw council tenants out of their homes if they are found guilty of criminal offences linked to the disturbances.

Others argue the measure is a ‘knee jerk’ reaction and could end up costing the councils time and money, as well as creating more pressure on an already strained public purse.

Sarah Hood, a housing solicitor at Stephensons law firm, which has offices across Greater Manchester, said potential evictees would not go quietly.

“It could create a number of problems,” she said. “Under the current law, the crime has to be in the vicinity in which the person lives. If someone has travelled to a different suburb or even borough this could be difficult to justify.

“Human rights will always be used in arguments about eviction, especially if the person in trouble is just one person in a family living at the same address who has done nothing wrong.

“Judges will have to decide if the action suggested is reasonable. Most social tenants are also liable to receive Legal Aid – will the public purse be willing to fund that?  Every one of the tenants will fight it.”

Hood said councils may find themselves caught up in ‘a very expensive argument’ to prove someone is guilty. “There are a lot of procedures to follow. It can be very time consuming,” she said.

“Rioting and looting go hand in hand with the economic climate. Making those people homeless will just create more problems, which will just have to be picked up by the state. They’ll be going back into the same system.

“When the dust settles, I hope they councils will decide against going through with it.”

So far, Greater Manchester Police have charged over 200 people for crimes connected to the riots earlier this month.

Ian Ormondroyd, a solicitor in the social housing team at Cobbetts LLP, said that while the sentiment of the councils may be commendable, the practicalities may be more complicated.

“Given the desire to send out a strong message, I am not surprised that this action has been proposed,” he said. “The relevant authorities do not want to be accused of being soft in the face of such serious behaviour.

“For anti-social behaviour, possession proceedings can be commenced as soon as notice is served. However, I have doubts as to the practicalities of possession proceedings.

“Firstly the landlord has to prove the behaviour alleged - in effect a conviction will be required. Secondly, the behaviour must have taken place in the locality of the dwelling house – a key point.

“Thirdly the court must be satisfied that it is reasonable for a possession order to be made and, even if the first two factors are established, the final say will be with the court. Public funding is almost certainly going to be available to enable the defendant to contest the possession claim and to take it to trial, which may take quite a few months.

“If the courts in the first instance take a strong line and order possession then I would expect that such a decision is likely to be appealed.”

‘Act in haste, repent at leisure’ seems what the people Confidential interviewed are saying. Tough action is one thing, but if evictions lead to cases being dragged through appeals, then the message becomes blurred. In which case trying to make an example of miscreants might backfire. Maybe the eviction idea was a case of speaking before thinking.

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39 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

James SpencerSeptember 4th 2011.

I suspect everyone is waiting on the Wandsworth case to see what happens. Incidentally they are being evicted if they are because one member of the household has been convicted of a crime... not 'anti-social behaviour'.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 4th 2011.

yeah...and send all them immigrants back home if they don't win a Gold Medal for Britain at the Olympics next year...

see what I've done there?

you can't have it both ways - you want an underclass, now live with it, Britain!

Karen HandSeptember 4th 2011.

What are you on about, Wally Danger?

the Whalley RangerSeptember 4th 2011.

It's simple, Karen

This whole proposal of going after the bottom end of society stinks - what about the bonuses?

Wish THAT was followed up with the same rigour.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

She didnt know how to ;)

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2011.

Evict bankers for robbing society!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Mat GuestSeptember 5th 2011.

no just the idiots over spending what they cannot afford to repay

AnonymousSeptember 6th 2011.

short selling is GAMBLING. Contrary to common belief that is the main problem - exponential gambling, Mat Nut

irish magritteSeptember 6th 2011.

potatoes are potatoes, gambling is gambling

AnonymousSeptember 4th 2011.

is there not a single Madoff in Britain?

Jonathan SchofieldSeptember 5th 2011.

Personally I think the idea of evicting rioters is medieval and stinks to high heaven. We're leaving behind cause and effect here. Punish rioters by prison and fines but not by eviction - eviction does not reflect the crime. It's a separate issue associated with nuisance and anti-social behaviour in the locality in which the nuisance occurs. Eviction may also punish the families of rioters who may be innocent of any role in the riots. It's society lashing out wildly.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

really?

Hero
HowieSeptember 5th 2011.

I agree totally Jonathan. Collective punishment, for that's what this would entail, is actally banned under the Geneva Convention for chrissakes! I don't see it as a "practicality" issue at all. It's just all wrong. Does anybody think that attempting to kick an entire family out on to the streets because of one member's misbehaviour is remotely helpful?

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

The courts are the proper place for punishment of crime, Councils should concern themseves in taking on the underlying social problems which cause this type of crime.

This is just a way for councelors to claim they did something that sounds strong next time their up for election. The reality is social housing tennants have nowhere else to go and we cannot just thow people onto the streets. All the council would be doing is atempting to evict people who it will most likely end up providing with alternative socialy provided accomodation anyway. All at great expence for the taxpayer.

AD

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 7th 2011.

A bit of proofreading please...
councillors
they're up for election
tenants
attempting
socially
accommodation
expense

NKLevelSeptember 5th 2011.

Awful, crazed, almost totalitarian idea. Punish the crime with prison as you say, don't make up new punishments because the police were caught out.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

Eviction doesn't fit the crime. We should smash their windows and take all their stuff.

Simon SmithSeptember 5th 2011.

If we have the powers to evict criminals from social housing why have we waited until the riots to do it? Many areas are blighted by a minority of vile neighbours and councils and other authorities do nothing to help for year after year. Evictions are extremely rare. Complaints about criminal tenants and their behaviour are routinely ignored.

The proposal to evict rioters highlights the fact that the public authorities don't know what they are doing from one day to the next as they go about their business in their usual shambolic, expensive and unprofessional manner. How typical that such unbusinesslike and amaterish organisations can't resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon of tabloid opinion.

JklopSeptember 5th 2011.

Seems nobody but Mail readers and people who aren't very clever agree with evictions.

1 Response: Reply To This...
grangeSeptember 6th 2011.

Unfortunately Mail readers and people who arent very clever(huge crossover) are very numerous and very vocal...

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

What underlying social conditions make people riot? These were not starving, shoe-less, rag wearing urchins.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

Mainly created by a few - and becoming huge through social media including texts messaging and a lot of the organisation around the city was carried out by so called gang leaders telling the little boys and girls to distract the police and directing others to do the looting,others gor caught up in it - some criminals and some idiots - not all lived in council houses either

Andy LoynesSeptember 5th 2011.

Sad to see local Labour politicians seizing on this ill thought through, idiotically kneejerk response to scenes which, of course, offended us all. I have just the one question for them: just what do they think such a measure would actually achieve?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

votes

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

Evicting the rioters only moves the problem on - to another area where they can riot again in the future ? Good on the Police/Courts for slamming the book at all the rioters that they have caught - even if they only stole a £1.00's worth of stuff !

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

“Rioting and looting go hand in hand with the economic climate."

Ahhh the classic combo!

Kevin PeelSeptember 5th 2011.

I completely agree with your analysis on this Jonathan.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

Essentially this was as one of your solicitors said a case of a strong message being sent. In practical legal terms, unless the miscreants (and their households) have a record of ASB on their own doorsteps (which is legally significant, doorstep = 0.6 miles/1 km) as long as your arm they are unlikely to be evictable. However if they do have such a record then riotous or more accurately larcenous thieving and criminal damaging behaviour could in some cases be the last straw for court that have already shown themselves to be minded to send a message. Sending a message like this is not really part of the underlying purpose of the courts of course so all this "noise" really is only a small part of the picture.

Although I am posting anonymously I am a councillor in one of the mentioned authorities. As an aside it is interesting to note that some constituents who are expressing opposition to the strong message approach would themselves gladly evict the anti social neighbours who are making them miserable with loud music, lively youngsters, crying babies, barking dogs; never mind violent or hardline ASB.

The exact same constituents in some cases.

But they're half right. People came to take part in these disturbances in all sorts of ways. A good few of them would actually benefit from a significant investment of care to give them hope and a sense that they really do have a stake. Even huffing and puffing councillors know that. A shortage of discretionary spending money in the Town Halls, thanks to the Lib Dems propping up the Cuts Coalition, should not be the backdrop at such a difficult moment for our councils.

It is hard to imagine a situation where I would support an eviction based only on the events of the thrashing of our streets but I _would_ be likely to support eviction over extremely persistent noise, nuisance, racism, threats, violence etc. Every one of us has our "price" when it comes to this and I'd be interested in hearing the arguments of any honest correspondent who thinks there are no circumstances when eviction is a reasonable step to take.

The strong message idea concerned me in two ways when it was first made. I had debates with several colleagues over this. One was that these were legally difficult and the likely outcomes would not satisfy those who'd got their hopes up for pillories and stocks, or even gallows on the green. These being the water cannon and baton rounds brigade. The other that it would upset the more sensitive souls among us.

In the cold light of day at three weeks distance it seems to me that if this strong message, albeit a bit of a caricature, saved us from a further night of looting and from escalation then it was well worth stretching the options out a little. In reality only the very worst cases with the very deep and wide histories will even be seriously considered for eviction.

FurFoxAcheSeptember 5th 2011.

Is it written into tenancy agreements with the council(s) that you aren't allowed a criminal record?

SandySeptember 5th 2011.

sandy moose
we need as a nation to start bringing in harsher penalties.. look at saudia . if anyone is caught steeling they get their hand cut off.. It would soon put a stop to these common thugs, who know at the moment they will not get punished

1 Response: Reply To This...
grangeSeptember 6th 2011.

No

We should not be copying saudi arabia in anything.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

The idea provided a good soundbite for various Councillors at the time of the riots. It was always going to be frought with danger (and additional cost) to put any action in to place.

KarenSeptember 5th 2011.

I sometimes think the MEN ranters such as Sandy get on here too often.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

I somethimes think Karen rants about MEN ranters on here too often.

CKRISGSeptember 5th 2011.

Most tenancy agreements contain a good behaviour clause but as stated early that relates to use of the property and local area. i.e. you can be evicted for anti social behaviour etc, extending this to other crimes is where it gets difficult. Would we evict the parents of a rioter when those parents are the ones who turn the little scumbag in

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

Yes, Saudi Arabia is definitely a good example to copy judicial policy from. While we're at it I bet we could clear up Store Street quite quickly if we round up a couple of the prostitutes that hang round there and stone them to death.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.

... and for good measure people who can't spell common words like 'steal' and 'they're' should be thoroughly beaten with a dictionary.

Carol MSeptember 5th 2011.

Agree it is a ridiculous knee-jerk reaction. Those convicted are punished by the courts, it's not for social landlords to add further punishment. It also means that those convicted who live in social housing receive an extra punishment that those living in privately rented accommodation (or are owners) will not. Not only is the entire household going to suffer because of the stupidity of one family member but pushing people out further to the fringes of society is hardly going to help them change their behaviour.

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