Birmingham City Council v Jones

Article

29 May, 2013

Birmingham County Court recently awarded outright possession of a property to the Council after police found cannabis growing equipment but no drugs at the property during a raid.

This case is believed to be the first case where an outright possession order has been made when only drug paraphernalia has been found at a property but no drugs have been found.

Mr Jones entered into a tenancy with Birmingham City Council in March 2003. During the tenancy the council received suggestions that drugs were being dealt from the property. In October 2012 the council were notified by police that a drugs warrant had been executed for the property. When a housing officer attended the property they found that the bedroom seemed to have been adapted in order to grow cannabis. A full hydroponic growing system was found in the bedroom along with venting tubes, lighting and growing equipment. No drugs however were found at the property. The housing officer was able to take photographs of the evidence which the council later used as evidence in the possession proceedings.

In October 2012 the council began possession proceedings which referred to the client's breach of his tenancy, specifically stating that his property was being used for illegal and immoral purposes. During the proceedings the council claimed that the police had discovered a cannabis factory which was due to be started, that Mr Jones intended the property to be used for illegal and immoral purposes, that their social housing is a valuable public asset, and it was important to ensure the asset was being used effectively. Mr Jones defended the proceedings, arguing that he had intended to sell the equipment on eBay. The judge rejected Mr Jones' defence and made an outright order for possession.

Key Points to Note

  • The court heard evidence that Mr Jones had a history of drug related offences including possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply and supplying a controlled drug.
  • The court had the benefit of seeing photographs the housing officer had taken at the property of the drug paraphernalia.
  • Mr Jones claimed that he was suffering from a mental illness but no evidence was produced to support the claim.
  • Mr Jones' evidence to support his claim that he was selling the equipment on eBay was weak and the judge described his evidence as "weak and not believable".

Overview

Social housing is a very limited commodity and those who manage social housing have to ensure that the properties are not used for the cultivation and/or supply of illegal drugs. This case sends out a clear message that using social housing for the cultivation and supply of drugs will not be tolerated. This case benefited from the availability of strong evidence of the drug equipment provided from the council along with weak evidence from the defendant who had a history of drug convictions. It therefore highlights the importance of collecting evidence and investigating the history of a problem tenant. This case also supported Birmingham City Council's zero tolerance approach towards drugs. Therefore, housing officers should make sure that their policies and procedures reflect a zero tolerance approach so that they can support possession proceedings in similar cases.

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