Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Slattery -v- Basildon Borough Council

Slattery v Basildon BC [2014] EWCA Civ 30, 22 January 2014

Ms Slattery was one of the Irish Travellers who were evicted from the Dale Farm site. Thereafter she moved to a different part of the site where she continued to occupy the land in question unlawfully. She applied as a homeless person and was offered bricks and mortar accommodation which she refused.

The Court of Appeal (Briggs LJ giving the leading Judgment) referred back to the previous Court of Appeal Judgment in Sheridan and Others v Basildon BC [2012] EWCA Civ 335. They noted that, on the particular facts of Mr and Mrs Sheridan’s cases, the court had concluded that the risk of psychiatric harm was mainly the consequence of the eviction from Dale Farm, together with their seeking and being offered separate accommodation (since they no longer lived together) rather than a consequence of the offer of bricks and mortar accommodation as opposed to caravan pitches.

Reference was also made to the previous Court of Appeal Judgment in Codona v Mid Bedfordshire DC [2004] EWCA Civ 925, where Patten J stated:-

It seems to me to be completely unrealistic to expect a housing officer on a section 202 review to conduct a general inquiry into strategic questions about the preparation of a homelessness strategy and the adequacy of site provision. This would require the officer to review the planning policies of the local authorities; the history of site provision; the inadequacy or otherwise of decisions taken about the change of use of land from a planning prospective; and the accuracy of its estimates of Gypsy and Traveller numbers over the relevant period.

Ms Slattery’s appeal firstly to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal was supported by a psychiatric report. Referring to this report, Briggs LJ stated:-

…it is striking that Dr Slater’s opinion predicted consequences flowing from the eviction, and associated loss of community support as more serious than those specifically attributable to a move into bricks and mortar accommodation. In his view the former risked the obstacle to recovery caused by hospitalisation, whereas her aversion to bricks and mortar might lead her to be unable to occupy a house, or lead her to return to live with another Traveller. More generally, those passages in Dr Slater’s report, read in the context of the report as a whole, clearly identified her eviction and consequential separation from the support of the Traveller community at Dale Farm as the most serious threats to her psychiatric wellbeing (para 17).

Briggs LJ concluded:-

In this case, although Judge Maloney’s summary of the thrust of Dr Slater’s report might be said to be more precise than that of the review panel, I consider that they both reasonably (and indeed correctly) extract the gist of it, namely that the ongoing threat to Ms Slattery’s mental wellbeing had more to do with eviction, and the consequential loss of the valuable support of her Traveller community, than to the aversion which would flow from being accommodated in bricks and mortar housing, rather than a mobile home or a caravan (para 26).

We understand that the Supreme Court are being petitioned for leave to appeal and that there may also be an application to the European Court of Human Rights.  See: Slattery -v- Basildon BC Judgment