All rioters could face benefits removal

The backlash continues after last week's looting and rioting
The backlash continues after ast week's looting and rioting

By Alex Stevenson

The government is considering stepping in to strip all those convicted of involvement in last week's riots of their benefits.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he was looking at whether his department could implement a process blocking payments.

Doing so would go beyond case-by-case decisions made by the judiciary, an option Mr Duncan Smith said he preferred.


Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Duncan Smith said there was already "an element of conditionality" in the system which could be extended.

"What we're looking at is: for criminal charges, should we take the benefit? The answer is 'yes'," he said.

An e-petition calling for rioters to lose all their benefits quickly became the first to attract 100,000 signatures, qualifying it for a debate in the Commons.

Now the former Tory leader, who last week said he wanted to make life "hell" for Britain's gangs, said he was exploring his options against "peripheral groups" who had got involved in looting and disorder "because they wouldn't get caught".

"I am at the moment looking to see whether or not someone who's convicted of a criminal offence but not custodial, that we would be able to impose a similar process on them as well, that they would lose their benefits for a particular period of time relevant to that process," he told BBC1's Breakfast programme.

"I'm inclined to believe that it's better if it's done through the judiciary rather than done straight by the Department itself."

Intense public enthusiasm for harsh action against the rioters beyond custodial sentences has already led one local authority to take steps of its own.

A Wandsworth council tenant was served an eviction notice on Friday after her child appeared in court facing charges in connection with rioting in Clapham Junction.

"There is no room on our estates for people who commit violent crimes, who show no consideration for their neighbours or harass, threaten, intimidate or cause disturbance to others," council leader Ravi Govindia said.

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