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Rural troublemaker’s “housing-related” conduct justifies injunction

22 September 2009

Swindon Council can use an anti-social behaviour injunction (ASBI) to ban a man from entering a village and harassing people because his conduct was “housing-related”, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The court heard that Michael Redpath lived in the same cul-de-sac in Warneage Green, Wiltshire, for 48 years before he was evicted in 2006 for “making a nuisance of himself when in drink”.

Earlier, Redpath had been jailed for six months for driving under the influence of alcohol after the police were tipped off by his neighbours. He retaliated by harassing the couple and damaging their property.

As well as evicting Redpath, Swindon County Court granted the council an ASBI banning him from entering Warneage Green.

In March 2007 he threw a stone through the window of a house in the village and damaged cars. He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison and received a second ASBI, for a further year.

However, in March 2008, Redpath was back in Warneage Green, using a metal post to break a dining-room window and throwing a brick through a car windscreen. He was arrested in a nearby village, after being found asleep in a bus shelter.

Swindon secured a third ASBI against him, again banning him from anti-social behaviour and from entering the village.

Delivering judgment in Swindon v Redpath [2009] EWCA Civ 943, Lord Justice Rix said the question was whether Redpath’s conduct was “housing-related” for the purposes of section 153A of the Housing Act 1996.

“In my judgment, it would be most unfortunate if, having brought an end to Mr Redpath’s tenancy because of his anti-social conduct, Swindon was then powerless under its housing management functions to protect his former neighbours, who include Swindon’s present tenants, from his continuing campaign of intimidation.

“I can find nothing in the language of Swindon’s housing management functions as a local authority, or in the modern version of section 153A, to lead me to that unhappy conclusion.”

Rix LJ said there was no requirement in the Act that Redpath had to be a council tenant or his victims council tenants.

“I can see no difficulty in viewing Mr Redpath’s haunting of a bus shelter or of the council’s garages, which are let to its tenants in Warneage Green, as housing-related conduct,” he said.

“That seems to me to be the case even if I view Mr Redpath’s conduct piecemeal. In my judgment, however, it is not to be viewed piecemeal, but as a whole.”

Lord Neuberger added: “It is plain from the legislation referred to by Rix LJ, and indeed to anyone in this country who keeps up with the news, that the legislature is very concerned about anti-social behaviour, and is keen to take steps, and to empower others to take steps, to discourage and prevent such behaviour.

“It would, of course, be wrong to interpret legislation such as section 153A of the 1996 Act in an artificially wide or impractical way or so as to be oppressive to those who are alleged to be behaving offensively: even if they are behaving offensively, such persons have rights as well.

“However, it would be at least equally wrong to interpret such legislation in a way which is artificially restrictive or which discourages or disempowers responsible and considerate landlords from taking proportionate steps in appropriate cases to protect their tenants, who will normally have very limited resources and limited access to legal advice, and indeed who will often be scared of taking action, from abusive behaviour.”

Lord Justice Carnwath agreed that Redpath’s appeal should be dismissed.

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Procedures Health & Safety Vulnerable Clients Local government