Equality Act 2010 and suspension of warrants


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The case of Paragon Asra Housing Limited v James Neville [2018] EWCA Civ 1712 involved an appeal on the issue of whether disability discrimination should be considered afresh on an application for the stay of a warrant following a breach of a suspended possession order.

Paragon Asra Housing Limited (Paragon) brought a possession claim against Mr Neville on the basis of his anti-social behaviour. Mr Neville admitted the breaches, but argued that his behaviour was as a result of personality and behavioural disorders from which he suffered which amounted to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, the possession proceedings were discriminatory.

In the County Court a suspended possession order (SPO) was made without a trial. Mr Neville's admissions were recorded in the order together with Paragon's acceptance that Mr Neville’s disability amounted to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, but that the court was satisfied that it was reasonable to make an order for possession suspended on terms that Mr Neville did not commit any further material breaches of his tenancy agreement.

Mr Neville subsequently breached the SPO. Paragon applied for a warrant and Mr Neville sought to stay the warrant on the basis of his earlier arguments of disability and proportionality. At the stay hearing, the District Judge accepted that there was no issue for the court to re-consider under the Equality Act 2010, unless there had been a material change of circumstances since the SPO was made. Mr Neville’s application was dismissed. However, upon appeal by Mr Neville, the Recorder agreed with Mr Neville and stated that the Equality Act 2010 considerations should have been reconsidered at the enforcement stage.

Paragon appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the District Judge who granted the SPO had already determined that the order did not discriminate against Mr Neville, and therefore the enforcement of that order did not discriminate against him.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Paragon: the relevant inquiry into the proportionality of the SPO had been undertaken when the SPO was made. As the court had been satisfied at that stage that the terms of the SPO were proportionate, the order could be enforced in the event of a breach. There were no relevant changes to Mr Neville’s circumstances, so he could not request that the court reconsider the same issue of proportionality at the warrant stage.

The case has highlighted that a tenant cannot have "two bites of the cherry" and resurrect the same arguments of proportionality that have already been ruled upon at trial at the eviction stage.

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