Mental health and anti-social behaviour


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The High Court decision of Eales v Havering London Borough Council is worth noting for those dealing with anti-social behaviour caused by tenants with mental health issues. This was an extempore judgement of the High Court meaning that there is no written record of it.

Miss Eales had been convicted of a raciallyaggravated public order offence in relation to a neighbour and had a history of acting in an anti-social manner. Havering London Borough Council (the Council) applied for an injunction to exclude her from her property together with a claim for possession based on a notice to quit. A public law defense, namely an allegation that the Council had failed to follow its own policy and procedure by failing to refer Miss Eales to its Vulnerable Persons' Panel, and disability discrimination, was raised. The Council maintained that any disability she had was exacerbated by her drug and alcohol misuse and a psychologist's report was produced confirming that she had to address her addictions before her personality disorder could be managed.

A possession order was made at first instance based on the view that her behavior was caused by her drinking and drug use rather than her disability. Miss Eales appealed. The High Court dismissed the appeal, finding that the possession order was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely of protecting other tenants, and it was an effective management of its housing stock. The reasoning in the case of Akerman- Livingstone v Aster Communities Ltd [2015] UKSC 15 was followed.

Miss Eales argued that an injunction alone would have been sufficient, but this argument was rejected as was the argument that the Council's failure to refer Miss Eales to the vulnerable persons panel was a material breach. The High Court held that the Council had been entitled to take a “broad brush” approach.

The High Court went on to rule that the making of a possession order was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of protecting the rights of other tenants and allowing the Council to manage its housing stock.

This case is a useful reminder that there must be a clear causal link between the disability of a tenant and their behavior to make out a defence based on disability discrimination. If an expert’s report does not adequately deal with this point, questions should be put to the expert, which can legitimately be done pursuant to Civil Procedure Rule 35. Ultimately, Miss Eales' behavior was primarily linked to her drinking and drug misuse.

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