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A Curious Footnote

By Dave

Mich-Onyibe v Wandsworth LBC (04/11/08, CA, judgment currently unavailable otherwise than by way of e-flash from Arden Chambers) is a kind of a curious footnote to homelessness law.  Wandsworth accepted that they owed the full Part VII housing duty to Ms Mich-Onyibe.  they offered her a bedsit on the first floor.  She refused it.  She suffered from a variety of health problems including Type 1 diabetes (involving regular seizures), chronic renal failure and claustrophobia.  She said that she couldn’t use the lift to get to the property because of her claustrophobia and she couldn’t use the stairs because of her medical conditions.   Her daughter, who cared for her, could not stay overnight, and her son could not stay at weekends.  The property was also too far from her daughter’s home and the hospital where Ms Mich-Onyibe received treatment.  Wandsworth rejected her refusal and upheld its decision on the s 202 review.

Ms Mich-Onyibe then took a s 204 appeal to the county court and the hearing was heard over three days.  The parties subsequently made repeated requests to the judge for the outcome of the hearing.  Over three months later, the judge dismissed the appeal stating that he would give his reasons later.  He didn’t and it subsequently transpired that the judge had retired.

The Court of Appeal refused to rehear the matter as a second appeal because of the amount of medical evidence and documentation.  They allowed Ms Mich-Onyibe’s appeal, though, on the basis of the failure of the judge to give a reasoned judgment and remitted the matter to the County Court for a further re-hearing.

It’s fair to say that NL has dealt with its fair share of bizarre cases and this one fits within that pantheon.  It’s also fair to say that some judges look as if they’re a fish out of water on s 204 appeals and this can show up in their judgments.  Whether or not that was the case here is difficult to say – it would, however, be interesting to know generically what level and type of training judges have before they sit on homelessness appeals.

And then there is poor Ms Mich-Onyibe who is still waiting for a proper judicial determination of her claim…


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