Landmark High Court Decision as Dismissal Upheld for Human Rights Possession Claim

Ref. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council v Armour (2012) QBD 18/10/2012

The High Court in October upheld the dismissal of a case previously heard in Southend County Court, in which Southend Council attempted to take possession of a property occupied by Mr Robert Armour on an introductory tenancy. The landmark decision marks the first of its kind.

The tenancy was granted in January 2011, but within two months there had been three separate complaints of abusive behaviour. Southend Council decided after review that it would seek eviction on these grounds and issued a possession order. They correctly believed that, under the Housing Acts, they had the power to absolute possession.

The case came to trial in March 2012 after 11 and a half months of good behaviour by Mr Armour. He was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and chronic depression during this period and was unable to defend the claim. His case was nevertheless supported by his teenage daughter, who lived with him, his sister and ex-partner, as well as youth services and the probation service.

With time and the situation having changed significantly since Southend Council issued that possession notice, Recorder Davies at Southend County Court decided that it was no longer a proportionate decision to take regarding evicting Mr Armour. She laid no criticism at Southend Council, but stated in no uncertain terms that a successful possession order would result in a breach of the tenant’s human rights.

She emphasised, however, that the defendant’s supporters must realise that there would be a continuing duty and obligation to comply with the terms of the tenancy in the future.

Although the case was sent to appeal at the High Court, Mr Justice Cranston agreed wholeheartedly with Recorder Davies. In his opinion she had balanced the factors weighing for and against being ‘proportionate’ and in reaching a decision had created a ‘model’ judgement to be the benchmark for all such future cases.

A new judicial precedent has been set therefore, which will be strongly influential on future cases with similar material facts.

Although no doubt the correct decision was reached in this case, some commentators worry that a precedent like this will pave the way for numerous future cases fabricating Human Rights Abuse and wasting valuable court time to avoid legitimate possession orders.

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