Tread with caution
A Ukrainian housing case acts as a reminder to comply swiftly with court orders, says Liz Davies
In 1995, Mr Globa, a Ukrainian, was at the top of his employer’s waiting list for accommodation. A vacant flat was allocated to two people lower down the list. He started court proceedings and, in 1999, the court ordered that the occupiers should be evicted and he should be allocated the flat.
For two years, the bailiffs failed to enforce the judgement. Later, the property was taken over by the council, which refused to comply as it did not have appropriate housing for the two occupants, who then bought the flat. In 2006, Mr Globa complained to the Ukrainian courts and requested that the ‘privatisation’ should be revoked. The courts agreed that the judgement had not been enforced and that the bailiffs were, in part, to blame, but refused to revoke the privatisation.
Mr Globa applied to the European Court of Human Rights saying that his rights under article 6 (right to a fair trial) and article 8 (right to respect for his home) had been infringed. It found that the complaint under article 8 was ill-founded, because Mr Globa had never occupied the flat.
But article 6 had been infringed. The right to a fair trial means that implementation of judicial decisions should not be prevented, invalidated or unduly delayed. Lack of funds could not excuse state authorities. He was awarded €5,000 for his distress.
It would be unusual for an English or Welsh court to order the eviction of innocent third parties from accommodation they should not have been allocated. However, this is a reminder that court orders should always be expeditiously complied with and that failure could breach a person’s right to a fair trial.
Liz Davies is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers