I can’t remember a time when people have been so angry and indeed upset in this country about anything as they have been about the recent riots and justifiably so.
Out of that upset and anger has come a desire to see rioters evicted from their homes and stripped of their benefits. Local authorities support this response in many cases; as do government ministers and it seem politicians of all persuasions.
I believe it is wrong for people in authority to respond in this way. The response of ordinary people who perhaps do not understand the implications of what they are asking for is one thing but for those in authority who do know or should know it is another matter entirely and in my view is wholly irresponsible.
When we respond in a knee jerk way or in the throes of anger and distress to a particular event that response is very rarely the correct one. Decisions need to be made when we have had time to reflect and consider all of the options available to us. Calling for the eviction of looters and the stripping of their benefits is a call made in anger and distress and speaks more of revenge than it does justice and in this respect I believe we should expect more from those holding positions of responsibility.
It is political grandstanding and posturing of the very worst kind, it is about votes not justice and inflames a situation that needs to be calmed.
Contrast this response with the response of Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon Jahan killed by a hit and run driver in Birmingham who appealed for calm and the response of many others directly affected by the disturbances that speak of understanding rather than revenge.
I took the following definition of justice from the free online dictionary and below that is the definition of revenge:
1. The quality or fact of being just
2. (Philosophy) Ethics
a. The principle of fairness that like cases should be treated alike
b. A particular distribution of benefits and burdens fairly in accordance with a particular conception of what are to count as like cases
c. The principle that punishment should be proportionate to the offence
1. To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult).
2. To seek or take vengeance for (oneself or another person); avenge.
1. The act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs; retaliation.
2. Something done in vengeance; a retaliatory measure.
3. A desire for revenge; spite or vindictiveness.
4. An opportunity to retaliate, as by a return sports match after a defeat.
In our response to those who took part in recent rioting are we seeking justice or revenge? Which response serves our communities best? Which response do we want our politicians to employ?
I presume the majority of people will wish to see justice meted out by the courts on each individual case according to the particular circumstances of the crime itself. In that we have a judicial system that needs to be allowed to do its job.
In one case where we do have some details a 12-year-old boy was convicted of stealing a £7.49 bottle of wine from a city centre Sainsbury’s on Tuesday evening and was charged with burglary.
On Thursday he was given a nine-month referral order, requiring him to see a probation officer once a fortnight, while his mother received a £50 fine.
But Manchester City Council warned that the family of four could pay a much higher price.
A spokesman said: “We are currently preparing a file on this case while we assess the next steps with a view to seeking a possession order.
So the court sees fit to fine the mother £50 and Manchester City Council wishes to add it’s own punishment by evicting her from her home for a crime she did not personally commit.
The courts in this case dealt out the justice but it seems to me that the actions of the council intend to top that off with a taste of revenge, not on the perpetrator but on his mother. Where will this lead us? What kind of a precedent are we setting here?
In a report on the Communities and Local Government website titled ‘Possession Actions and Evictions by Social Landlords’ and compiled in 2005 http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/possessionactions it states that:
‘In the main, possession actions are invoked in response to two types of misconduct:
(a) Serious ASB – e.g. involving violence, harassment or drug dealing – where there is a definite intention to secure possession, and
(b) As a last resort reaction to persistent though less severe ‘offences’ where all other attempts to secure a change in the offender’s behaviour have failed (but where there is little or no genuine expectation that the action could be carried through).’
Is Manchester City Council satisfied that they can actually evict the family related to these two examples of misconduct? If not why are the taking this action?
Preceding the riots I had some (one way) interactions with Grant Schapps the minister for Housing and Local Government, these are the details:
grantshapps Grant Shapps MP
I’m saying that landlords should be given new powers to evict ‘neighbours from hell http://bit.ly/oCMs1j
@grantshapps The real question is what you do with them though. I assume they will live somewhere post eviction? Will problem just be moved?
@doorwayproject Lisa Lewis @ Doorway
As you can see there was not one response from Mr. Schapps even when I asked if he could point me in the direction of somewhere where I could contribute some solutions. Saying that I’m sure he has a very high volume of tweets @ him and can’t respond to all of them
So what does happen when to people when they are evicted from their homes? If a minister describes a course of action he would like to embark on does he not have an obligation to tell us what he believes the consequences of that action might be? Something about “taking responsibility” in here don’t you think?
Lets say the family in Manchester are evicted and do not have the means to find a deposit to go into private rented accommodation. At this point they become homeless and will in all likelyhood turn up at the door of homelessness services.
The cost to the taxpayer related to all of the services that then come into play in relation to a family with young children on the streets will be enormous! The 12 year old boy will be in serious danger of his behaviour deteriorating rather than improving and the whole problem for him, his mother and the rest of us has just got a whole lot worse!
Many people are calling for evictions and the stripping of benefits as a method of getting the individuals and families concerned to accept responsibility for their actions but will this course of action produce the desired outcome? I suggest not.
In how many other situations will we then employ legal means to get people to accept responsibility for their actions? Manchester City Council and Grant Schapps spring to mind!
Everyone I believe wants to see justice done. Evictions and removal of benefits on top of the sentences imposed by our courts will not be interpreted as justice in the eyes of those who are convicted and then evicted it will be seen as revenge.
It will not help solve the situation it will exacerbate it, it will deepen it and it will embed it into our society for generations to come. The mother will be resentful, the child will be resentful and if he has children there is a danger he will bring them up with a similar sense of resentment.
The thing is there are better ways to deal with these kinds of problems. Ways that have produced results but have not been modelled elsewhere.
The following are excerpts from the same report taken from the Communities and Local Government website titled ‘Possession Actions and Evictions by Social Landlords’ and compiled in 2005. This is Grant Schapps’ department.
‘Possession actions by social landlords more than doubled in the decade to 2003. By 2002/03 these were resulting in the eviction of around 26,000 tenants annually. The vast majority of such re-possessions are triggered by rent arrears, though a small proportion are to counter anti-social behaviour (ASB). Once evicted, former tenants are often disqualified from social housing.’
‘As yet, only a few local authorities have attempted to emulate Dundee City Council’s Families Project – a support and rehabilitation scheme to challenge and change tenants’ anti-social behaviour.’
You can find an evaluation of the project here – http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/157971/0042705.pdf
‘The continuing rarity of such schemes, despite their proven record, suggests that the full range of alternatives to possession action to counter ASB are not typically available, even in larger cities. It must, however, be acknowledged that the resource-intensive nature of such projects (which cater for only small numbers of households), has considerable financial implications for social landlords going down this route.’
‘It appears that landlords’ more active stance in countering ASB since the mid- 1990s is probably reflected mainly in their increasing deployment of remedies other than eviction.’
So if the aim of any government or local authority actions is to reduce offending rates and to put a stop to anti social behaviour of all types evictions is not the answer.
I would venture that they cost more for all of us. They do not work for the evicted, they do not work for the victims and they are detrimental to society as a whole.
My views on eviction are of course shaped by the many years I have spent working in the homelessness sector and seeing the consequences of this distressing situation on individuals and families.
I have cited above an example of a solution that has seemed to work but has not been modeled elsewhere.
In Life Coaching there is a principle of looking at what works and doing more of it rather than focusing on the problems and in this respect the following is a list of areas that I believe it might be useful to look at in more detail.
- Making government more representative, transparent and responsive in relation to small communities
- Members of parliament representing the areas they grew up in
- Some form of mandatory community service for all school leavers
- Parenting classes
- Understanding Community – Workshop
- Restorative justice
- Understanding Politics and local government – Workshop
These are just a few possible solutions that spring to mind but in principle I would suggest that the solutions in reality lie in the communities that have been affected and that in all probability they will need some outside support in finding those solutions and implementing them.