Wednesday 21 March 2018

High Court quashes council's refusal to re-house man who claims to be victim of racists attacks

Happy Agamah, from Rathfarnham Photo: David Conachy
Happy Agamah, from Rathfarnham Photo: David Conachy

Tim Healy

THE President of the High Court has quashed a local authority's refusal to provide alternative accommodation to a man who claims he was the victim of racist attacks on his council home.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns also "expressed the wish" that South Dublin Co Council should facilitate the priority transfer of Happy Agamah (64) from his flat in Ballyboden, Rathfarnham Dublin.

Mr Agamah, a Ghana-born German citizen who came here in 2008 and works as a taxi driver, claimed he was subjected to a number of attacks including one in which a mattress was set on fire at the back of his flat and another in which his door was damaged in a hammer attack. 

A local woman, who suffers from schizophrenia and who has since been re-housed by the council, also shouted racist abuse in carrying out the hammer attack.  She was subsequently convicted of the attack which occurred when Mr Agamah's son was staying with him.

Quashing the council's refusal to transfer him, Mr Justice Kearns said in another incident in late 2013, Mr Agamah said his taxi was vandalised by other residents of the complex where he lives.

A number of other residents also attempted to "entrap" him in an incident involving a woman who was found lying unconscious on the grounds of the complex.

In the incident in which the mattress was set on fire, on June 9, 2014,  Mr Agamah believed this was a targeted racist attack and garda have sent a file to the DPP on this in relation to two people who are believed to have been involved in it.

The judge said as a result, Mr Agamah's doctor wrote to the council saying he (Agamah) was sleeping in his car because he was too terrified to go home.

Mr Agamah's lawyers argued there was a total failure by the council to consider relevant medical evidence.  They denied the council's claim the transfer application was now pointless as the main perpetrator of the attacks, the woman with schizophrenia, had been re-housed.

It was also argued the council unlawfully delegated to the gardai the decision about whether Mr Agamah should be transferred.   The gardai had advised the council there was no risk to his life and no evidence to suggest the attacks were racially motivated.

The council said there were insufficient grounds to give him a priority transfer as, apart from the fire incident, there was only one other complaint from Mr Agamah which was about noise.

The council said it had exercised its powers to refuse a transfer reasonably and proportionately.

Mr Justice Kearns said taking the hammer and fire attacks on their own "and the apparently personal nature of them", together with documentation before the court, the evidence showed the refusal can only be regarded as irrational.

The decision to transfer the perpetrator of the anti-social behaviour in the complex, "while denying a transfer to the victim who had complained about such behaviour, is self-evidently irrational, he said.

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