Testing the limits
There’s little to be gained by taking proportionality arguments on evictions to court, says Jane Plant
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects our rights to a private and family life. In February the European Court of Human Rights considered the case of Dixon v UK, which addressed whether this protection applies in eviction cases.
A joint secure tenancy was terminated by one of the tenants. The remaining tenant received a possession order, but launched an unsuccessful application for a judicial review on the basis that it violated his right to respect for a home by failing to consider the proportionality of making the decision. The application was dismissed in both the High Court and Court of Appeal. The High Court said that if it had been required to address proportionality, it would have decided that the possession order was proportionate.
The former tenant appealed to the European Court seeking compensation for breach of article 8.
The UK government accepted that a court should consider the proportionality of making a possession order where requested to do so. The government offered €3,000, compensation and legal costs.
However, the European Court ruled that: ‘Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the government’s declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed - which is consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases - the court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application.’
The proportionality argument is running out of steam. The court should consider this argument, but the threshold to prove that a decision is disproportionate is high.
Jane Plant is an associate in the social housing team at Weightmans LLP