It is quite understandable that so many people want to see those responsible for the riots to be held to account.
A local problem
The desire for justice is being sought not only through the criminal courts but also in respect of the security of tenure they may enjoy as council or housing association tenants.
But it is questionable whether the law permits all those who have been involved in causing the damage to be evicted on account of that involvement.
Where tenants are not on starter tenancies or are not introductory tenants, they will normally be either assured or secure tenants.
To obtain eviction in assured cases, grounds will need to be shown under the housing act 1988 while with secure tenants the same will be needed in the housing act 1985.
Those grounds will enable tenants - or effectively, allow those who live with or visit them - who commit acts of “nuisance and annoyance” or indictable offences in the locality of their property to be potentially liable for eviction.
Ultimately, however, it will be for the court to determine the reasonableness and proportionality of any such proposed evictions.
The problem is likely to come when one considers the use of the words “locality” in these grounds.
This is often defined as closely as simply the estate on which someone lives. What amounts to a locality will depend from case-to-case.
The only other possibility will depend upon the terms of the relevant tenancy.
These are often modelled on the statutory grounds and refer if not to locality then to terms like “surrounding area”, or “neighbourhood”, “vicinity”.
What - again - brings something within these terms depends from case to case.
However, someone who crosses the Thames in the foot tunnel between Greenwich, where they live, and the Isle of Dogs, where they commit serious damage and anti-social behaviour, may very well not be seen to be within the “locality” as used within the relevant act or some tenancy agreements.
Care needs to be taken to ensure that only the appropriate cases which fall within the grounds are taken through the courts by councils and housing associations or else they may find themselves liable to pay costs to those who have been involved in this disgraceful behaviour: when emotions are high, reason must be vigilant.
Jonathan Hulley is a partner at law firm Clarke Willmott and is an expert in the field of housing management.