Sunday, 31 August 2014

Human rights court to examine eviction

The European Court of Human Rights is to scrutinise the procedures social landlords use to evict unruly tenants.

The court has challenged the UK government to say whether the eviction of Blackpool council tenants Paul and Amanda Wilkes in 2007 was in line with parts of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Wilkes family, including their two children, had their one-year introductory tenancy terminated following 57 incidents of alleged anti-social behaviour, including threatening to kill a neighbour and threatening to burn down a block of flats. They lodged an appeal with the court later that year.

The court has announced it is pursuing the case. It wants to establish whether Blackpool Council’s decision to evict the family was proportionate, and that the review panel which confirmed the decision was sufficiently independent.

The investigation follows a Supreme Court ruling involving Manchester Council tenant Cleveland Pinnock, in which the court ruled there must be proportionality when landlords carry out mandatory possession hearings - especially where landlords have an unqualified right to posses a home, such as on introductory tenancies.

Nick Billingham, a partner at solicitors Devonshires, said the government should have little to worry about on either count. ‘It would be surprising if they [the European Court] decided that Blackpool’s decision was disproportionate,’ he said.

Readers' comments (20)

  • Melvin Bone

    '57 incidents of alleged anti-social behaviour, including threatening to kill a neighbour and threatening to burn down a block of flats'...

    They sound like honest folk who have been hard done by. I wish them luck in Luxembourg...

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  • Brussels and human rights? Keep them out of Britain. If there are neighbours from hell - get rid of them.

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  • Chris

    Yes the intollerant and brutal must be expelled - off you go Venk!

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  • Oh come now Melvin, who hasn't threatened to murder a neighbour at least once a year! 57 incidents is only one or more a week. I'm sure the evil landlord were being overzealous. Maybe their garden was just un-tidy?

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  • Fear & Loathing

    Surely not evicting them would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The human rights of the neighbours, the victims of death threats, the anti-social behaviour and the arson threats were being breached by this household's behaviour.

    To allow the perpatrator of a crime to have more "human rights" than the victims of that crime, is complete madness.

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  • Jimmy Devlin

    I find the idea that the court's decision to grant possession could have possibly been "non proportionate" ,on any grounds, offensive in the extreme.

    When another person's life is threatened , not to mention the threat to burn the rest of the neighbours' flats down , the perpetrator/s should now be serving a long prison term, never mind getting evicted.

    This ridiculous case should be swiftly despatched by the ECHR as the complete waste of time and money it is.

    How much longer can the people of Britain expect to remain subserviant to decisions taken at an EU court which appears to have no real regard for real victims' article 8 rights ? Instead changing the way crime and asb is to be considered by "the professions " , which will only lead to even less support from them to the decent majority of victims of asb and crime .

    I believe it's time to withdraw from the ECHR permanently , and the PM should deliver on his pre-election promises which include developing our own Bill of Rights to replace this wholly discredited ECHR agenda.

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  • Rick Campbell

    I can't tolerate intolerance.

    Confused of Macclesfield.


    That's an awful lot of anti-social behaviour .. I wonder how the evicted family would fare under that nice Mr Shapps's local panel thingee/setup?

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  • Jim Bauld

    I would tend to agree with Nick Billingham's view....would be absolutely amazed if this case is successful

    Blackpool's decisions sound entirely "proportionate" to me.

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  • (ECHR) "....wants to establish whether Blackpool Council’s decision to evict the family was proportionate, AND that the review panel which confirmed the decision was sufficiently independent."

    While I agree with the proportionate element from the report above as 57 cases in one year is more than one a week, the ECHR is looking into TWO matters here and not just proportionality.

    I dont know the composition of the review panel or whether it followed procedures or indeed whether they procedures may be in breach of any law. So this cant be a simple case of taking Blackpool's side of events alone on just proprtionality.

    What is troubling is that the ECHR has accepted there MAY be a case to answer in law and just taking the view that there is a legal challenge must mean there is an elementt of doubt. If there was no doubt and this matter was 'cut and dried' as most commentators above suggest I doubt ECHR would have decided to look at the issue at all.

    If say ECHR decide that it was proportionate BUT the review panel was not sufficiently independent (or as in most legal cases) the council failed to follow its own procedures, it will be seen as justice not being served. Yet, in that scenario, the council would also not be blameless.

    One final point worth considering is why it took 57 cases of ASB for the council to evict in the first place? And if the article is factual which I assume isnt a threat to kill someone a criminal offence? What role did the Police play in this? Have they yet again simply abandoned their responsibilities and duties as they tend to do regularly with social tenants?

    There must be a lot more in this than this one-sided and vague information we have been given above

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  • Anyone know who is funding / supporting their legal challenge?

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