Courtesy of Jim Shepherd of Doughty Street Chambers comes this account of a county court appeal of a Ground 7A possession claim, following a closure order. The appeal of the possession order was partly on the basis that the Defendant could not get legal aid in time.
Goode v Paradigm Housing , October 2015
The Appellant had been an assured tenant since 25th March 2013. She is a recovering drug user. On 6th January 2015 Thames Valley police issued a Closure Notice pursuant to Section 76 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 effective for a period of 48 hours. On 8th January 2015 the Closure Notice was extended pending a hearing at High Wycombe Magistrates Court on 21st January 2015. At the hearing on 21st January 2015 the police obtained a Closure Order for a period of 3 months. They did not seek to extend the Closure Order at its expiry as they were entitled to do.
On 20th March 2015 the Respondents served the Appellant with a Notice of Seeking Possession on the basis of Grounds 12 and 14 (discretionary grounds) and Ground 7A ( The new mandatory ground). A claim for possession was issued on 24th April 2015 and a hearing date given for 3rd June 2015.
The Appellant sought advice from Carillion Advice Services who provide advice as part the Legal Aid advice telephone line. She was sent a letter by Carillion in which she was told to seek an adjournment to allow her time to secure representation through legal aid. The Appellant attended the hearing with a duty adviser. The Respondents were represented by solicitors and counsel. The Appellant requested an adjournment so that she could secure legal representation. The District Judge refused the adjournment on the basis that the mandatory ground 7A was made out and ordered outright possession.
An appeal was brought on the basis that the judge should have adjourned for the Appellant to get legal representation.
The failure to grant the adjournment constituted a breach of the Appellant’s Art 6 rights. Further, ground 7A is expressly made subject to any available defence based on the tenant’s Convention rights. The Appellant had a potential defence because her conduct had improved both before and after the closure order had been made ( relying on Southend v Armour  HLR 23). She had stopped unsavoury elements coming to the premises and had stopped taking drugs.
Further the Respondents had not offered her a review of the decision to seek possession contrary to Home Office Guidance (Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: Reform of ASB powers, Statutory guidance for frontline professionals ,Page 62).
The Appellant was granted permission to appeal. The matter was settled with the Respondents agreeing to vary the possession order to a suspended order on terms.
The Appellant was represented by Saima Yasin of Hillingdon Law centre and Jim Shepherd of Doughty Street Chambers.