Thursday 30 January 2014

A legal action that shames Brent Council

Another case has emerged where Brent Council has pursued legal action against a vulnerable member of the local community apparently without any consideration of ethical issues. In this case they pursued a recently bereaved deaf gay man for possession of his home.

The story was told by Debra Wilson for Anthony Gold Solicitors on the Lexology legal newsfeed website LINK :

His Honour Judge Lochrane in giving judgment on a possession claim brought by Brent Council was critical of the Council’s approach, in refusing to allow a cohabitee a right to succeed to his deceased Gay partner’s tenancy.

The couple had lived together in a committed relationship for several years. Brent Council relied on a Court of Appeal authority to the effect that in order to succeed to a tenancy, applicants must prove that their relationship is “openly and unequivocally displayed to the outside world”. The couple concerned were both profoundly deaf and were in a homosexual relationship akin to that of living together as civil partners, of which was known to several members of the deaf lesbian and gay community.

The Judge was concerned that the proceedings did not descend into any “unedifying” process of an examination into the private life of the defendant. The council’s lawyers sought to find a way of arguing that the defendant had not informed the local authority that he was in a Gay relationship with his deceased partner. There was a veil of silence to this case as the couple lived a life where their deafness and lack of speech clearly made communications difficult with anyone who was not “within their world”. But, Brent Council disagreed, as it was their view that any couple living together must be “open” with the local authority and not just within their own community.

The Judge made a finding that he considered that Brent Council had not assessed the case with the necessary “delicacy and sensitivity” that it required. The Judge considered that it was incumbent on Brent Council to make proper enquiries before coming to a conclusion because of the potential devastating effect that the Defendant would have been homeless. The case serves to underline that there are various reasons why some couples would wish to hide their relationship, whether because of cultural divides, age differences, disapproval from family and so forth.

Brent Council asked for permission to appeal which was refused. The Council were ordered to pay the costs of the action. The Defendant’s counsel’s parting shot was to warn Brent council that any efforts to overturn the Judge’s refusal of permission to appeal would cause undoubted outrage amongst, not only the Gay, Lesbian and Deaf community but Brent council taxpayers for bringing a case that really should not have been pursued.

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