Wednesday 23 October 2019

Woman who claimed rights were breached when local authority tried to evict her over alleged anti-social behaviour dismissed

She allegedly painted a number of coffins in a Hallowe’en tableau at the house with her nicknames for neighbours she believed had complained to the authorities about her

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Stock picture

Aodhan O'Faolain

The Supreme Court has dismissed a woman's claim her human rights were breached after a local authority sought to evict her following allegations of anti-social behaviour.

In 2008 Athlone Town Council brought proceedings aimed at having Christine Quinn evicted from a property it owned at Brawney Square, Athlone over claims she had engaged in anti-social behaviour.

The council's application to evict her came before the local District Court after she was served with a summons under section 62 of the 1966 Housing Act.

In 2009 she brought High Court proceedings against the local authority where she sought orders aimed at  preventing the council from evicting her.

In her proceedings she sought declarations including that section 62 of the 1966 Act are invalid, breached her constitutional rights and were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The summons she claimed ought to be set aside. She also sought a declaration that the council had failed perform its functions in a manner compatible with its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights ECHR.

She further sought an order seeking damages from the Council.

The High Court dismissed her claim on grounds including she had delayed in bringing the proceedings and acquiesced by fully participating in the District Court process.

In 2010 Ms Quinn was evicted from the property on foot of an order obtained by the council at the District Court.

She appealed the High Court's decision to the Supreme Court, in which the Human Rights Commission was a notice party.

In its ruling five judge court, comprised of the Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Mr Justice William McKechnie, Mr Justice John MacMenamin, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley dismissed her appeal.

Giving the court's judgment Ms Justice Dunne said the High Court was correct to find that there had been a delay on the party of Ms Quinn, and that she had fully participated in the District Court proceedings.

The court also found her appeal was moot, and that she was not entitled to damages. 

The Judge said that in this case there was no breach of Ms Quinn's rights under the ECHR when she was evicted on foot of a valid warrant of execution.

Quinn was evicted from her local authority property on September 23, nearly two years after she allegedly painted a number of coffins in a Hallowe’en tableau at the house with her nicknames for neighbours she believed had complained to the authorities about her.

Council officers who asked her to take down the “inappropriate” and “sinister” decorations were verbally abused.

Quinn was given a notice to quit in October 2008, an ejection summons was formally issued against her in January 2009, and the council sought the District Court to impose this order on dates in April, July, and September last year.

Judge John Neilan refused to do this for a number of reasons, namely that the alleged evidence of anti-social behaviour was only hearsay, and that there had been an outstanding appeal to the Supreme Court suggesting such an eviction may be contrary to Article 13 of the EU Declaration on Human Rights, (that it is contrary to the human rights of an EU citizen for a statutory authority to arbitrarily deprive said citizen of housing ).

The High Court found for the council because of Section 21 of the Housing and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1997, which allows a limited provision for third party evidence in the case of intimidation as a result of anti-social behaviour, and that the Article 13 appeal had survived two constitutional challenges since 1999, and an ongoing challenge did not constitute a precedent.

Quinn appealed this back to the High Court on July 8, and Justice Hedigan ruled on July 16, again in favour of the council. An issue to quit was served and the sheriff exercised this on September 23.

Quinn has now appealed this decision to the highest court in the land seeking damages, additional time to contest the eviction, and an order against the council to desist from pursing any further action against her.

Quinn, who is separated and has two children, moved into the property in August 2004, and first complaints were received against her.

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