• Revision ID 82768 REVISION
  • 2018-08-06 15:53:30
  • by Linh Nguyen (talk | contribs)
  • Note: tags, thumbnail, category
Title Title
London County Council Housing London borough tests controversial deterrent in effort to curb violence
Summary Summary
Highlights Highlights
Content Content
  <b>In response to what has been widely reported as a knife crime epidemic, one London borough is testing a <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/council-homes-gang-members-confiscate-evict-victoria-atkins-a8413181.html">dubious deterrent method</a> as part of a wider scheme. But the method has drawn fast fire from critics for being ineffective, discriminatory and having “come from nowhere.” </b>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Known as the <a href="http://directory.islington.gov.uk/kb5/islington/directory/service.page?id=KqKFNwwb36s">Integrated Gangs Team</a> (IGT), the scheme being trialed by Islington Council, along with the Metropolitan Police, will allow the council to evict families from their council housing homes simply for being related to gang members convicted of crimes. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">In essence, punishing the innocent for the actions of the guilty.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The controversial deterrent method, sometimes called “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kin_punishment">kin punishment</a>,” will allow the council to evict residents from their homes even if they haven’t been convicted of a crime. According to officials, it’s an attempt to tackle the rise in knife crime that’s taken the lives of more than 60 people in the capital this year. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Backed by £2 million in council funding running into 2020, IGT sees "youth services working directly with police, probation, Job Centre Plus, an NHS psychologist and voluntary organizations,” Islington Council told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in a statement. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;"><a href="http://www.islington.media/r/112820/one_year_on__islington_s_youth_crime_plan_is_keeping_more">According</a> to Islington Council, knife crime among young people has dropped significantly in the area due to the work of the IGT. It also said that since the unit was launched two years ago, not a single person under 25 has been killed in a knife attack. Knife stabbing itself decreased 13 percent in the 12 months leading up to January, according to a press release from the council. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">If successful, the plan </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">is to make the eviction scheme <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/26/gang-members-families-evicting">nationwide</a>.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">In June, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins publicly backed the scheme in an <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/06/22/minister-calls-parents-count-kitchen-knives-bid-halt-rising/">interview</a> with </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Telegraph</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. A spokesperson for Atkins told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that although Atkins did reference the plan, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is responsible for its implementation. The MHCLG told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> it’s looking into the matter.</span>
  <h2><b>Polarizing policy</b></h2>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The new policy created an uproar within the Islington Council shortly after it was announced. Greg Foxsmith, a criminal justice lawyer and former Islington Liberal Democrat councillor, publicly denounced the council’s decision in a <a href="http://islingtontribune.com/article/convict-the-guilty-not-evict-the-innocent">open letter</a> in the </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Islington Tribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, describing the policy as “discriminatory and illiberal” and a form of “double punishment.”</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Foxsmith told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> much of the policy is driven by “gesture politics.”</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">"I think politicians always feel pressure to be seen to be doing something, and particularly to be seen to be doing something hard and they always like to have crackdowns or punitive measures,” he said. “So this was one, but it looked to me very thin in terms of evidence base.”</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Foxsmith said it is difficult to understand how or where the policy originated. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's hard to see actually whether this is government-led or local authority-led, because it looks like it's from the local authority, but then a Home Office minister said she's giving it her blessing,” said Foxsmith, referring to Atkins. “But I don't know whether they've legislated for it. It's come from nowhere as far as I can see.” </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">About a week after the publication of Foxsmith’s letter, Islington’s councillor, Joe Caluori, responded to Foxsmith with an <a href="http://camdennewjournal.com/article/eviction-only-used-as-last-resort">open letter of his own</a>, also published in the </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Islington Tribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">, defending the policy and saying that eviction threat is used only as a “last resort.” </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“People in the community are understandably fed up with the small minority who ruin their neighborhood; so if households choose to refuse all the support we offer, as a last resort and only in specific circumstances, we will ask a judge to make an eviction order,” wrote Caluori. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“This approach has been used on a very limited number of occasions for a number of years, but it is right that this serious deterrent to unacceptable criminality is available to us.”</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Met Police reiterated Calouri’s “last resort” remark in a statement to </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Ultimately all partners in the IGU work together to avoid (eviction),” the Met Police said.  </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Whether it’s first or last, it’s wrong,” Foxsmith told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span>
  <h2><b>But is it legal?</b></h2>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">For critics, a major trouble with the council’s policy is the legal implication of punishing the innocent with guilt by association. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Under this policy one person allegedly offending can jeopardize the entire family, where some members may be law-abiding,” wrote Foxsmith in his open letter. “Why should they be punished for the action of someone under their roof?” </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">In the wake of the 2011 London Riots, Prime Minister David Cameron <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14509779">announced</a> that evicting family members of rioters would be a good deterrent and way of “enforcing responsibility in our society.” </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Wandsworth Council was the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14810580">first area to enforce such an edict</a>, threatening a mother and her daughter with eviction for her son’s involvement in the London Riot.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Tony Belton, the Wandsworth councillor, represented the family at the time. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“I cannot see how any council can use evictions as part of the penal code as opposed to the housing management code,” Belton said. “If you take my case ... the people who would’ve suffered most would’ve been ... the mother and the nine-year-old sister [of the rioter].” </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Eventually, Wandsworth County court rejected the council’s eviction attempt and the mother of the rioter, Maite de la Calva</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, kept her home. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Wandsworth Council’s threats to make an innocent family homeless are as cynical as they are heartless,” <a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/press-releases/after-riots-%E2%80%93-wandsworth-council-evict-innocent-family">said Emma Norton in 2012</a>, the lawyer who defended de la Calva,</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and who works as a legal representative </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">at the charity Liberty. ”Their attempt to be the first council to evict tenants following the riots is shameless self-promotion.”</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The policy is also problematic because it places eviction in the context of the penal code instead of housing management. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“If [a] person commits a minor offense, let alone an even quite major offense, the building society who runs his mortgage doesn’t evict him, they’d only evict him if he can’t afford to pay the rent,” said Belton, the Wandsworth councillor. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Furthermore, the eviction scheme applies only to those who live in council housing. This, Belton added, also fuels the assumption that council housing is seen as a privilege and signals punishment on a class basis. Council tenants, consequently, are treated as “a different class of citizens, if not second-class.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s a legal requirement to provide a council housing. It isn’t a privilege, it’s a right,” Belton told </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Local authorities eventually </span><a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9688647/Councils-boycott-Camerons-demand-to-evict-rioters.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">boycotted Cameron’s demands</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, saying that it’s counterproductive and unfair to punish entire families for the action of one person. </span>
  <h2><b>Criminal system and structural racism</b></h2>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The analysis only seems to get worse for sponsors of the plan. The eviction policy is targeted at a narrow section of the population. After all, the IGT works with and specifically references “</span><a href="http://directory.islington.gov.uk/kb5/islington/directory/service.page?id=KqKFNwwb36s"><span style="font-weight: 400;">gangs</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">” and not any other form of antisocial or criminal behavior. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“The Town Hall will use intelligence reports from police to decide which families to target for evictions,” Councillor Caluori told the </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Islington Tribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">But the system under which the police classify gang members is flawed and discriminatory. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Amnesty International <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/reports/Trapped%20in%20the%20Matrix%20Amnesty%20report.pdf">published a report</a> in May 2018 that concluded the Met Police’s Gangs Matrix database appeared to be an example of “institutional racism” in action. The majority of young men in the database were from black or other ethnic minorities, and many had no criminal convictions. In its study, Amnesty International also called eviction threats “one of three most celebrated tactics” by the Met Police. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Ministry of Justice statistics from 2016 and 2017 show that BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnics) youth are more likely to face a criminal justice system rife with structural racism. The Lammy Review – an independent review chaired by MP David Lammy – published in 2017 <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf">corroborated this analysis</a>, finding that BAME young people are disproportionately arrested and imprisoned. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Following the Lammy Review, The Howard League for Penal Reform, <a href="https://howardleague.org/news/howard-league-publishes-ethnicity-analysis-of-child-arrests-following-the-lammy-review/">found</a> that the “Metropolitan Police made more than 20,000 child arrests in 2016, of which more than 12,000 were of BAME children – the highest proportion recorded by any police force in England and Wales.”</span>
A picture of a council housing in London. <h2><b>Eviction or no eviction? Officials vague</b></h2>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Perhaps because of its controversial underpinnings, the policy doesn’t seem to officially exist, despite both Met Police and Islington Council confirming to </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the threat of eviction is used as a last resort in some criminal cases. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Where is the actual policy? What’s the detail?” asks Foxsmith.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Met Police directed </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">WikiTribune</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> questions about threats of eviction to Islington Council. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The council in turn said that while no “gangs eviction scheme” exists, it confirmed that eviction is used as a last resort, apparently providing conflicting information. When asked whether threats of eviction have occurred, the council provided no reply. </span>
Categories Categories
  Current Affairs, Human Rights, Law, Politics, United Kingdom
Article type Article type
Tags Tags
  Amnesty International, council housing, eviction, gang crime, Gangs, Knife Crime, London, metropolitan police
Author byline Author byline
No No
Has hero Has hero
No No
Hero Alignment Hero Alignment
Hero Image URL Hero Image URL
None None
Featured Image URL Featured Image URL
Sources Sources

Subscribe to our newsletter

Be the first to collaborate on our developing articles

WikiTribune Open menu Close Search Like Back Next Open menu Close menu Play video RSS Feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Youtube Connect with us on Linkedin Connect with us on Discord Email us