Title Title
A general view shows the Barnsbury Estate in the London borough of Islington. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor 'Gesture politics?' London borough tests family eviction threats to deter knife crime
Summary Summary
  UK scheme will allow threats of home eviction for families related to convicted gang members. But the exact details are very vague
Highlights Highlights
Content Content
  <b>In response to what has been widely reported as a knife crime epidemic, one London borough is testing a tough deterrent method as part of a wider scheme. But the move has drawn fast fire from critics for being ineffective, discriminatory and having “come from nowhere.” </b>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Run by the <a href="http://directory.islington.gov.uk/kb5/islington/directory/service.page?id=KqKFNwwb36s">Integrated Gangs Team</a> (IGT), a scheme being trialed by Islington Council, along with the Metropolitan Police, will allow authorities to threaten families with eviction from their council housing homes simply for being related to gang members convicted of crimes. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">In essence, the innocent could be punished for the actions of the guilty, a</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> practice sometimes called</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kin_punishment">kin punishment.</a>” </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">According to officials, this is part of an attempt to tackle the rise in knife crime that has <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018#main-points">escalated by 16 percent</a> from March 2017 - March 2018 compared to the previous year. <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/esmagazine/mean-streets-sixty-moped-muggings-a-day-knife-attacks-becoming-more-and-more-common-and-gang-a3872451.html">Multiple</a> <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/06/boy-17-shot-dead-south-london-another-night-bloodshed/">media</a> <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/knife-toll-rises-after-teen-killed-zm6nsxvd6">reports</a> state that knife crime has</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> taken the lives of at least 60 people in the UK capital so far this year.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Backed by £2 million ($2.6m) in council funding running into 2020, IGT uses "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>
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  <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 the 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 in the area. </span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">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> (<em>The Guardian</em>).</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 she 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 was trying to get further information on the matter.</span>
  <h2><b>Polarizing policy</b></h2>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">The new policy created an uproar within Islington Council shortly after it was announced. Greg Foxsmith, a criminal justice lawyer and former Islington Liberal Democrat councillor, publicly denounced the 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>
  [caption id="attachment_82881" align="aligncenter" width="5760"]<img class="size-full wp-image-82881" src="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wikitribune-uploads-master/2018/08/07123217/2015-09-23T120000Z_179710336_LR2EB9N0Y37FC_RTRMADP_3_BRITAIN-POLITICS-CORBYN-ISLINGTON.jpg" alt="A general view shows the Barnsbury Estate in the London borough of Islington. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor" width="5760" height="3840" /> A general view shows the Barnsbury Estate in the London borough of Islington. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor[/caption]
  <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 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 remark that the threat of eviction was a “last resort” 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;">"We are open to any options that will reduce reoffending by the most violent offenders ... Ultimately all partners in the IGT work together to avoid [eviction],” the police force 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 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_England_riots">2011 England Riots</a>, 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 riots.</span>
A general view shows the Barnsbury Estate in the London borough of Islington. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor <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>
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  <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 seen as 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 activists say that 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 that campaigners say is 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: “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>
  <h2><b>Eviction or no eviction? Officials vague</b></h2>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">No official documentation of the eviction threats of IGT's scheme actually exists. Met Police confirmed 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, then directed further questions to the council.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Islington Council in turn said that no “gangs eviction scheme” exists, but also confirmed that eviction is used as a last resort. When asked whether threats of eviction have occurred, the council provided no reply.</span>
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">“Where is the actual policy? What’s the detail?” asks Foxsmith. "I've yet to see any enabling legislation or enactment."</span>
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