Thursday, 13 October 2011
Dale Farm judgment
Perhaps not surprisingly, the last ditch attempt by residents of the Dale Farm travellers’ site in Essex to prevent their eviction from the site failed in the High Court yesterday. The challenge on human rights grounds was rejected by Mr Justice Ouseley, who held that the Council’s action in seeking to evict the residents from the illegal site was not disproportionate.
I have not yet seen a transcript of the judgment, but I understand that a further reason for refusing this latest application for judicial review was that there had been undue delay in bringing these proceedings against the Council’s decision to take direct action to evict the residents of the site.
It seems clear that the judge felt that this last-minute attempt to prevent or delay the physical execution of enforcement notices which had previously been upheld by planning inspectors and by the courts was totally lacking in merit, and that preventing the effective enforcement of planning law would bring the whole planning system into disrepute.
It seems that the claimants have not ruled out the possibility of an appeal against this judgment, but it is very unlikely that the Court of Appeal could be persuaded to give permission for an appeal to be pursued. These claimants have, however, shown remarkable determination in their attempts to use every possible means to prevent their eviction from the site, so it may be premature to predict that this is necessarily the end of the legal road for them.
Although reports which I have seen do not say so in terms, the injunction preventing the Council from proceeding with evictions has no doubt been lifted, so that there is no longer any legal impediment to the Council’s taking the necessary steps to clear the site. I would think it very unlikely that the claimants could persuade any court to order any further delay of evictions pending an appeal.
There has been a certain amount of hot-headed comment out of court on both sides of the case during the course of these proceedings, but the latest hearing does demonstrate that the Courts will bend over backwards to do justice and to ensure that it is manifestly seen to be done. It is right that the claimants’ latest legal challenge should not have been dismissed out of hand but that it was given a fair hearing. On the other hand, the judge was undoubtedly right, after careful consideration of the matter, to dismiss the claim and to insist that the law must now take its course.
© MARTIN H GOODALL