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Council ordered to review case of 'anti-social' housing applicant

 

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A judge has quashed a decision by a local authority to refuse to consider a man and his family for social housing after he was convicted of violent disorder.

Kerry County Council excluded Brendan Coffey from consideration for any form of housing support for two years on the grounds his offence amounted to anti-social behaviour.

But the council will now have to reconsider the decision following a ruling by the High Court.

Mr Justice Mark Heslin found the council did not provide sufficient information to Mr Coffey, of Shanakill, Tralee, Co Kerry, to enable him to know why the decision was reached.

The case has put the spotlight on anti-social behaviour policies adopted by local authorities.

In the judicial review proceedings brought by Mr Coffey, his partner and two minor children, it was argued the council had been inflexible or unlawfully fettered its discretion.

Under the council's housing policy, where an applicant has been convicted of anti-social behaviour, they may not be considered for any form of social and affordable housing for a period of two years after any conviction on "good estate management" grounds.

Mr Coffey received a two-year suspended sentence in July 2016 for violent disorder over an incident which took place in 2012.

There was significant prosecutorial delay in the case and Mr Coffey pleaded guilty when he was arraigned in November 2015.

After the council learned of the conviction, it decided to exclude Mr Coffey and his family from any form of housing support until July 2020. Time they had accrued on the housing list was also reassessed and reduced, effectively pushing them down the waiting list.

After Mr Coffey was fined €250 for drugs possession in November 2018, the exclusion was pushed out to November of this year.

After a review in January last year, the extension to November 2020 was dropped and the exclusion date reverted to this July.

But Mr Coffey claimed the council failed to give proper reasons for the decision.

This was disputed by the council, which denied adopting a fixed or inflexible position.

Mr Justice Heslin found there was no evidence the council acted in bad faith, but he said there were a number of questions surrounding the decision, the answers to which were not sufficiently clear.

These included why the council had not accepted prosecutorial delay as a mitigating factor in considering the matter.

Irish Independent