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Thursday 11th August 2011 | 12:31
No one could have failed to have been shocked and appalled at the despicable violence and vandalism that has taken place on Britain’s streets this week. Many of us will have been glued to our television screens, watching the terrible events unfold – some of us will have witnessed it in our own neighbourhoods. I want to pay tribute to the councils in affected areas who have acted quickly to help those people whose homes and businesses have been destroyed.
The people who rioted and looted must know that there are consequences to their actions, and I am as keen as anyone else to see justice being done. Since the weekend around 1,000 arrests have been made in London alone, police are going through pictures from CCTV cameras to identify those yet to be caught and courts have been sitting through the night to make sure perpetrators are swiftly brought to book.
So Britain’s fight-back is underway – and not just in the criminal justice system. I have been heartened by the thousands of residents that have come out in force to clean up their neighbourhoods across the country – from Birmingham to Brixton, and from Liverpool to Lewisham, we’ve made clear that this Government will stand four-square behind these communities in every sense.
That includes where councils themselves want to take action to ensure those who have caused such devastation to their communities face sanctions. Many will ask why rioters get their benefits from the State when they are not prepared to act like a normal member of society, and I strongly support those councils – such as Greenwich, Southwark and Hammersmith and Fulham – who’ve come out and said they will seek to evict those council tenants who are convicted for their involvement in the riots.
Most recently, I announced a consultation on plans to speed up the process for evicting persistent ‘neighbours from hell’ from their homes when all other efforts to curb their behaviour have failed. But I want to go further. Social housing is a precious resource, and hard-working taxpayers will rightly wonder why anyone involved in trashing and looting should benefit from this. But as things currently stand, whilst thuggish behaviour against neighbours or in the immediate vicinity of their home provides a ground for evicting a tenant, looting or other criminal activity by tenants further from their homes can’t usually be taken into account.
This cannot be right. People who commit anti-social behaviour should feel the consequences regardless of whether their actions are taken within the immediate vicinity of their home or further a field. That’s why I want to add a question to my recently-started consultation, on whether criminality and anti-social behaviour that tenants or members of their family commit outside the immediate neighbourhood should provide a ground for seeking eviction.
This Government has a clear message to the rioters: your one night of madness could have disastrous consequences for the rest of your lives, and for your entire family. The police and courts are working hard to ensure that perpetrators feel the full force of the law. I will back those councils who want to back this with action of their own against those tenants who have torn up their own communities and, through those actions, potentially their own social housing tenancy agreements.
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