Wednesday 13 December 2017

Riots crackdown: Evictions, social media bans and jail

Metropolitan Police officers arrest a suspect after carrying out a raid on a property on the Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico during Operation Woodstock, London. Photo: PA
Met Police officers arrest another suspect in the same area. Photo: PA
British Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the House of Commons today. Photo: PA
Paul Ruane, 47, of Newton Heath, who was jailed for eight weeks for handling stolen goods during the rioting in Manchester. Photo: PA reporters

Curfews, social media bans, a crackdown on facemasks and evictions for council tenants who are convicted of rioting were among the draconian measures announced today to deal with four nights of mayhem in England.

British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to do "whatever it takes" to restore order to the streets after extensive rioting in major cities.

Police will be given new powers to remove rioters’ masks, social media use will be reviewed and businesses will be compensated, he promised.

"Opportunistic thugs" had used Mark Duggan’s death as an excuse for violence, he said. "The young people stealing flat screen televisions and burning shops - that was not about politics."

"We will not put up with this in our country, we will not allow a culture of fear to take over our streets,” he said.

Addressing a recalled House of Commons, the Prime Minister said anyone convicted of rioting should go to jail.

He said the Government was looking at the option of introducing new sentencing powers and promised that reinforced police numbers would remain on the streets of London over the weekend.

"We will not put up with this in our country. We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets and we will do whatever it takes to restore law and order and to rebuild our communities," he said.

Mr Cameron announced that police would be given new powers to demand suspected criminals remove facemasks while ministers were also looking at whether any wider powers of curfew were necessary.

He said they were also looking with the police, the intelligence services and industry at whether it was possible to stop people plotting disorder through social media websites.

Mr Cameron said that while he did not want to break away from the traditional "British model" of policing by putting troops on the streets, he said ministers were looking at whether the Army could take on some police tasks to free up more officers for the frontline.

"Nothing should be off the table. Every contingency is being looked at," he said.

Meanwhile, council tenants were warned today they could be evicted from their homes if they are found to be involved in rioting.

Council chiefs in Manchester, Wandsworth and Salford said anybody found to be involved in crimes carried out during the riots will not just face a criminal conviction - they may also find themselves losing their homes.

Councillor Paul Andrews, Manchester City Council's executive member for neighbourhood services, said: "If you are a tenant of any of our properties, and you or your children are found to be involved in the looting we will use whatever powers are available to us to make sure you are thrown out.

"Most people who live in our properties respect their neighbours and play by the rules. Those who do not, and who are found to be involved in this sickening criminal activity, could find their tenancies at risk."

The warning also came from Wandsworth Council in London.

Council leader Ravi Govindia warned that anyone who lives in a council-owned property who is convicted of involvement in the disorder could also face eviction proceedings.

He had instructed the council's housing department to look at ways of evicting council tenants involved in the disorder.

He added: "People who live in council homes should be under no illusions about the fate that awaits them if they are found to have been involved in Monday night's destruction and thuggery."

In Salford, John Merry, leader of the council, added: "Anyone who can do this to their own city is not welcome in Salford.

"We need to make sure these people understand their actions do have consequences, and the consequences for some of them could mean they lose their homes.

"This is not a decision we take lightly, but we really must take a stand. I would urge anyone who can identify any of the people responsible to work with us and the police to bring these criminals to justice."

Officers from the council and the council's housing provider, Salix Homes, are reviewing the CCTV images to see if they can help identify any of the offenders.

Salix Homes also plans to take legal action and potentially evict tenants found to have been involved in the disorder.

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