27 November, 2014
Earlier this week, the Court of Appeal decided that a judge had been correct to grant a possession order against a tenant on the basis of her son's repeated acts of nuisance and annoyance to neighbours.
In the case of Greenwich London Borough Council v Tuitt, Ms Tuitt was a public sector tenant of Greenwich London Borough Council and lived in the property with her son. Under the terms of the tenancy agreement, Ms Tuitt accepted responsibility for ensuring that all those in her household, including her children, demonstrated good behaviour while in the locality of the property, including on a nearby housing estate.
Ms Tuitt's son had previously signed an acceptable behaviour contract, agreeing not to engage in anti-social behaviour or to abuse and/or threaten others on the estate or in the neighbouring area. In 2012, nine specific allegations of anti-social behaviour were made against Ms Tuitt's son. Later that same year, he was involved in the assault of a caretaker on the estate, for which he was convicted in 2013.
Following the conviction for assault, Ms Tuitt's son broke the conditions of his bail by returning to the estate on at least four occasions and in 2013 he also criminally damaged the door of one of his neighbours.
Greenwich London Borough Council brought possession proceedings against Ms Tuitt on the basis of her son's alleged misconduct. During the original proceedings, the judge found that nine specific allegations were made out and found that it was reasonable to make a possession order with immediate effect.
Ms Tuitt appealed against this decision and argued that the judge had neglected to consider the lack of any specific allegations made in respect of her own conduct, failed to give adequate reasons for finding that her son's anti-social behaviour had continued after the commission of the assault and that the judge had been mistaken in finding that the evidence of complaints about her son carried weight because there were so many of them over several years.
The Court of Appeal dismissed Ms Tuitt's appeal and held that the judge had correctly applied the law and had come to an appropriate conclusion.
In reaching this decision the Court of Appeal considered that the question of the reasonableness of a possession order was focused on the effect of the alleged nuisance and annoyance on others, and not on the responsibility for the nuisance and annoyance. However, when deciding whether or not a possession order is reasonable, a judge has to take account of all the relevant circumstances of the case. In this case, the Court of Appeal stated that there was no substance in the suggestion that the judge had failed to consider the fact that none of the allegations related to Ms Tuitt's conduct. In reaching their decision, the judge had dealt expressly with each allegation, which were all directed at the son's misconduct, but that did not mean that the judge had ignored Ms Tuitt's approach to the problem of her son's behaviour. The judge had dealt with the issue in meticulous detail by way of their findings that Ms Tuitt had underestimated the effect of her son's conduct on others, and that her son's extreme conduct had resulted in both her son and Ms Tuitt falling out with their neighbours.
In relation to considering whether or not it would be appropriate to suspend the order, the judge had considered Ms Tuitt's responsibility for her son's behaviour and had concluded that Ms Tuitt had been unsuccessful in her attempts to deal with her son's behaviour, that Ms Tuitt had not properly accepted her responsibility for her son's misconduct, and that Ms Tuitt had failed to take a hard enough line with her son, which meant that there was a risk of him causing further harm.
In respect of Ms Tuitt's argument that the judge had failed to give adequate reasons for finding that her son's anti-social behaviour had continued after the commission of the assault, the Court of Appeal decided that the judge had weighed up the events that had occurred since the assault and concluded on the evidence that Ms Tuitt's son was still unable to control his temper and that Ms Tuitt had not done enough to curb his behaviour.
In conclusion, the Court of Appeal found that the judge had correctly applied the law to the facts and reached an entirely appropriate and sustainable conclusion.