Iranian torture victim refuses final accommodation offer – appeal process culminates in defeat

Ref. Poshteh v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea [2015] EWCA Civ 711

Following two periods of imprisonment and torture in Iran on charges of dissident activity, Ms Poshteh was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2009. Kensington and Chelsea Council sourced temporary accommodation for her in accordance with their homelessness duty and sought more permanent living arrangements for her.

As per s. 193(7) of the Housing Act 1996 as amended, the Council’s duty to a person categorised as ‘homeless’ ceases if that person refuses a final offer of accommodation “having been informed of the possible consequence of refusal and of his right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation”.

In this instance, on viewing the property, Ms Poshteh was reputedly reminded of the prison where she had been detained, which caused a panic attack. Her principal concern arose from a round window in the living room, which reminded her of the prison windows, and she refused the offer of accommodation as a result.

A review of the decision to end the Council’s duty to her followed. The reviewing officer considered the following in rejecting her concerns:

  1. Ms Poshteh had indicated that the flat would be suitable as temporary accommodation;
  2. The round window was significantly larger than those present in the prison;
  3. There was an additional large square window in the living room; and
  4. The medical evidence indicated that a small dark flat, a flat without a view, or one with a lift would be unsuitable for Ms Poshteh.

An appeal to the County Court failed and the matter was escalated to the Court of Appeal. Two grounds were considered and rejected:

  • The objective reasonability of her fears was irrelevant

The decision maker was entitled to find that the property would not have the consequences that Ms Poshteh had described on her mental health. Holmes-Moorhouse v Richmond-upon-Thames LBC [2009] UKHL 7 was applied – in which it was established that an irrelevant or trivial error in the reasoning does not render a decision invalid.

  • the decision maker had erred in finding that Ms Poshteh’s objection was to windows that were round and small as opposed to round or small

The decision maker was clearly aware of his duty under the Equality Act to seek clarification from the GP, and had weighed the evidence regarding it in the round. He had considered if Ms Poshteh’s disability affected whether it was reasonable for her to accept this offer of accommodation and decided that it did not. In general, it was not the Courts place to question the weight put on to a particular factor, so long as it was satisfied that all pertinent factors had been considered.


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