This week Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell, who plays car mechanic Kevin Webster, was cleared and found not guilty of child rape and other sex abuse charges. The question of whether suspects in such cases should be given anonymity, as complainants are, is now being debated.
You may be reading this thinking what has Mr Le Vell's acquittal got to do with a social housing blog? His case has nothing to do with Social Housing but the debate concerning whether those charged but not convicted of a case have the right to anonymity has implication when applied to social housing. Currently, if a person is charged with an offence in relation to anti-social behaviour at or in the vicinity of their social housing, they could be in breach of their tenancy agreement. A breach of tenancy agreement, would allow a landlord to begin civil court proceedings. In essence, a social landlord could serve notice to the tenant on the basis that a person has been charged with a criminal offence.
If a tenant is served a notice following being charged they not only face the prospect of going to prison if found guilty, losing their job and reputation but they could also lose their home. However, if they were given anonymity then it may be the case that the landlord wouldn't be aware of any charges, and consequently they would have no reason to issue a notice.
From experience there are plenty of social landlords in the North West who issue tenants with notices when they have only been charged with a criminal offence. Is it right a tenant should receive a notice in these circumstances? What about the presumption of innocent until proven guilty? Or is the landlord merely just managing its housing stock appropriately?
My view is that a tenant should only receive a notice in circumstances whereby when they've been convicted of a criminal offence or admitted their guilt. This would save a landlord thousands of pounds in legal and court costs in trying to evict a tenant.
By Mark Pimblett, housing law department