Police to help city vet tenants

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The Independent Online
Police are to pass on details of past convictions of tenants to help a city council evict troublemakers from housing estates.

The details of a range of crimes, including the activities of paedophiles, drug-dealers and burglars, will be given by West Yorkshire police to Leeds Council.

Inspector Alan Featherstone said housing officers will not be allowed to go on "fishing trips" for information. Each request, he said, would be considered on its merits and must form part of a legal case being prepared for eviction. He said the passing of information will be made under secure conditions with named contacts and a dedicated fax link.

"It will be a two-way partnership," said Insp Featherstone. "We will give information relevant to the case for eviction and it's up to the council to justify its use in the courts. But we would also expect the Council to let us know of any criminal activity they suspect is going on."

Housing chairman Richard Lewis said the scheme could not be considered as part of the trend to "out" convicted sex offenders, including paedophiles.

He did not want tenants taking the law into their own hands. "I know on certain estates if there is an inkling of paedophile activity, that person could be burned out. We don't want to get into that," he said.

All tenants will sign contracts which make it clear that criminal and nuisance behaviour could be grounds for eviction. An anti-social behaviour team has been formed to support housing managers trying to deal with cases of intimidation and reprisals.

They may act as professional witnesses in cases of unacceptable behaviour and provide surveillance equipment in the homes of harassment victims. There is already a list of 50 high priority cases, says the council.

Mr Lewis added that dealing with anti-social behaviour costs the council pounds 3m a year which it can ill-afford. "When you add to this the misery they cause to other people, we have no choice but to act decisively.

Doreen Tinker, 66, chair of the Leeds Tenants Involvement Committee and a council tenant for 23 years, said she welcomed the move. "I don't think tenants are going to be bothered about this information going to the council if it's a case of severe anti-social behaviour. I don't think we want lists of ex-offenders published because everyone deserves a second chance," she said.