Is evicting convicted rioters from council housing and revoking their benefits really a good idea?
There’s talk of stripping benefits from anyone found guilty of the looting and rioting in England last week. Given that most of the feckless individuals were too busy stealing Sony TVs and designer jeans to even care about larger societal matters, few of us probably have any initial objections to this suggestion.
It’s not quite as easy as that though.
From the photos that have been circulated, a lot of these thugs weren’t even teenagers at all. If they’re older and on benefits, they might well have dependent children. What happens to them? These kids aren’t exactly born with a silver spoon in their mouths as it is. Should the sins of their fathers be visited on them? If you’re of a mind that the kids shouldn’t be punished for their fathers’ crimes, it means they the government has to find another way of supporting them. That, in turn, means a whole new layer of bureaucracy to fund.
Plus, think about it, removing benefits, especially in the form of housing, will simply result in hundreds more homeless people on the streets. While they won’t then be living off taxpayer money, it’s not exactly the result England needs is it?
Removing benefits is a knee jerk reaction to a horrific recent event, but in its simplest form, that’s probably not the answer.
Oddly enough, I am taking the liberal view precisely because I am not a liberal.
Simply put: turfing these people out and taking away their benefits sounds satisfying, but it is revenge pure and simple. And revenge is never a good idea.
It is also totally unnecessary: there are laws on the books (and have been for hundreds of years) to handle assault, vandalism, robbery and murder—use them! On the numerous “Cops With Camera” shows , we see criminals captured after:
- smashing shop windows
- looting stores
- assaulting people
- leading police on wild, destructive and dangerous car cases
but, as the program wraps up, we find that they were given a two-week suspended sentence and 2 point on their license. (This is the sort of thing that makes me start shouting at the telly.) Why weren’t these people locked up?
I’ll tell you why (soapbox level 3): the same hand-wringing do-gooders who are now whining about “disenfranchised youth” and our “broken society” are the same people who have been—for the last twenty years—systematically stripping police of their powers and blocking courts from handing out just punishments.
So why did these people destroy property, loot stores and assault passersby? Because they have been taught that it is acceptable behaviour. They have been doing it for years and have never received anything more than a slap on the wrist, so why would they hesitate to join in? (/soapbox level 3)
And taking their housing away? No surprise that this was the first revenge tactic the MP’s thought up; after all, when they were caught looting the public, the punishment they suffered was having to pay for their second homes themselves. So being revealed as a common thief relates—in their minds—to having your housing benefits taken away, and it’s too bad that they are unable to think any further ahead than that, because when they start throwing innocent people onto the streets along with the guilty, I am afraid the politicians, and the people hounding them for revenge, are going to be the ones looking like the villains.