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European Court of Human Rights
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> European Court of Human Rights >> KAY AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM - 37341/06  ECHR 1322 (21 September 2010)
Cite as:  L & TR 1, 54 EHRR 30,  HLR 2, (2012) 54 EHRR 30,  ECHR 1322
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CASE OF KAY AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM
(Application no. 37341/06)
21 September 2010
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Kay and Others v. the United Kingdom,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Nebojša Vučinić, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 31 August 2010,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. The circumstances of the case
“The fact is that Lambeth has an unqualified right to possession. And on the basis of the majority opinions in Qazi by which we are bound, that is a sufficient answer to the claim under Article 8.”
“However ... [t]he decision to bring possession proceedings was an administrative decision to which the ordinary principles of administrative law apply. Accordingly it can be challenged by judicial review and perhaps by way of defence in proceedings such as the present.
But that does not mean that, by the backdoor, Article 8 comes back into play as a 'relevant consideration'. Initially, as in all decisions related to housing, the particular needs of a tenant and his family will form a necessary background to the decision a housing authority has to take. And they will therefore form part of the considerations which the housing authority has to evaluate. But those considerations fall to be evaluated on ordinary administrative law principles. In the present case, no material has been put before the court to suggest that the decision was unlawful or unreasonable in the Wednesbury sense ...”
Relevant domestic law and practice
1. Housing law and Article 8 defences to possession proceedings
a. Security of tenure
“The court shall not make an order for possession—
(a) on the grounds set out in Part I of that Schedule (grounds 1 to 8), unless it considers it reasonable to make the order,
(b) on the grounds set out in Part II of that Schedule (grounds 9 to 11), unless it is satisfied that suitable accommodation will be available for the tenant when the order takes effect,
(c) on the grounds set out in Part III of that Schedule (grounds 12 to 16), unless it both considers it reasonable to make the order and is satisfied that suitable accommodation will be available for the tenant when the order takes effect.”
b. The House of Lords judgment in Qazi
The House of Lords judgment in Kay
“ ... Subject to what I say below, I would hold that a defence which does not challenge the law under which the possession order is sought as being incompatible with the article 8 but is based only on the occupier's personal circumstances should be struck out ... Where domestic law provides for personal circumstances to be taken into account, as in a case where the statutory test is whether it would be reasonable to make a possession order, then a fair opportunity must be given for the arguments in favour of the occupier to be presented. But if the requirements of the law have been established and the right to recover possession is unqualified, the only situations in which it would be open to the court to refrain from proceeding to summary judgment and making the possession order are these: (a) if a seriously arguable point is raised that the law which enables the court to make the possession order is incompatible with article 8 [“gateway (a)”], the county court in the exercise of its jurisdiction under the Human Rights Act 1998 should deal with the argument in one or other of two ways: (i) by giving effect to the law, so far as it is possible for it do so under section 3, in a way that is compatible with article 8, or (ii) by adjourning the proceedings to enable the compatibility issue to be dealt with in the High Court; (b) if the defendant wishes to challenge the decision of a public authority to recover possession as an improper exercise of its powers at common law on the ground that it was a decision that no reasonable person would consider justifiable [“gateway (b)”], he should be permitted to do this provided again that the point is seriously arguable ...”
“There may, however, be cases like Connors where the incompatibility with the article 8 Convention right lies in primary legislation which the county court is being asked to apply to the case by the public authority ... In such a case it would be open to the High Court to make a declaration of incompatibility, if it was not possible to read or give effect to the legislation under section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in a way which was compatible with the Convention right. But the legislation would nevertheless still have to be enforced, unless the decision of the public authority to seek to enforce it when faced with that incompatibility could be said, when judicially reviewed, to be arbitrary, unreasonable or disproportionate. The decision could not be held in the county court to be an unlawful act within the meaning of section 6 of the 1998 Act: see section 6(2)(b). The fact that the question of incompatibility that was raised in Connors was not capable, under the domestic system, of being dealt with effectively in the county court because of the limits on its jurisdiction reinforces, rather than detracts from, the proposition that a defence which is raised in that court under article 8 should be struck out unless the legislation can be read and given effect in a way that is compatible or it raises an issue as to its incompatibility that ought to be considered in the High Court.
The appellants' right to continue in occupation of premises over which they never had any rights granted to them by the landowner was brought to an end by the operation of law when Lambeth gave notice terminating the leases to LQHT. They have no right to remain there indefinitely, which would be the effect of denying to Lambeth its unqualified right to possession of the premises on the ground that to give effect to this right would be incompatible with article 8. Their interests will be sufficiently protected by the fulfilment of the formal requirements for the eviction, which demand proof by the public authority landowner of its entitlement to obtain an order for possession in the exercise of its property rights. I would dismiss this appeal.”
“As to 'procedural safeguards', each of the [appellants] filed a pleading setting out the basis on which his article 8 defence, as well as his domestic law defence, was based. The article 8 defences were given due judicial consideration but were struck out as being incapable of constituting a defence to Lambeth's possession claim. Whatever 'procedural safeguards' are requisite, they cannot bar a court from ruling in a particular case that the pleaded facts and matters relied on are not capable of outweighing in the balance the contractual and/or proprietary right to possession of the owner of the property in question. If the home occupier thinks the judge's ruling to be in error, the ruling can ... be reviewed on appeal, or on an application for permission to appeal.
... The possession orders sought by Lambeth engage the article 8 right to respect for the home of the respective occupiers from whom possession was sought. But an order for possession was in accordance with domestic law. As against Lambeth the occupiers had become trespassers with no right to remain in occupation. There was nothing discriminatory or unusual about the statutory and common law framework that produced that result nor about the absence of any statutory protection given to the occupiers by the housing legislation. I respectfully agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Bingham of Cornhill's remarks in para 36 of his opinion that the balance required by article 8(2) to be struck was struck by the general law, that the public authority owner had a right to manage and control its property within the bounds set by statute, that the occupier acquired only a limited right to occupy and that on due determination of that right, a claim by the owner must ordinarily succeed. The appellants ... could not resist Lambeth's possession applications on article 8 grounds unless either they mounted an article 8 attack on the legal framework that entitled Lambeth to possession or they attacked on article 8 grounds Lambeth's decision to seek possession. The first attack was not attempted, and, if it had been, would in my opinion have been bound to fail. There is nothing the matter, from an article 8 standpoint, with a common law rule which gives the owner of property, which is occupied as a home by a person who has no right as against the owner to remain there, the right to recover possession of the property. Parliament's omission to provide any statutory security of tenure for home occupiers in the position in which the [appellants] found themselves is well within the wide margin of appreciation referred to in Blecic.
As to the decision of Lambeth to seek possession of the properties occupied by the [appellants], I agree with and adopt the conclusion expressed by Lord Bingham in para 47 of his opinion. No facts have been pleaded or alleged by the appellants which outweigh the right and the duty of Lambeth to manage its housing stock. The wide margin of appreciation referred to in Blecic must be accorded to Lambeth.
The article 8 defences were struck out by Judge Roger Cooke. They were in my opinion rightly struck out. If a defendant does not plead or allege sufficient facts which, if made good, could constitute a defence, the defence can be struck out. On the facts pleaded and alleged in the article 8 defences the defences could not have succeeded.
Nor, in my opinion, where a home occupier has no contractual or proprietary right to remain in possession as against the owner of the property, could an article 8 defence based on no more than the personal circumstances of the occupier and his family ever succeed. Connors is no authority to the contrary. The successful article 8 defence in Connors was founded on a combination of Mr Connors inability to enjoy the security of tenure advantages afforded by statute to occupiers of privately owned caravan sites and on the Strasbourg court's perception (which I think was an unjustified perception) of a lack of sufficient procedural safeguards enabling him to dispute the grounds which had led the council to terminate his site licence.”
“... as I understand it, some of your Lordships would go further and accept that there may be highly exceptional cases in which the occupier could argue that his individual personal circumstances made the application of the general law disproportionate in his case. When, if at all, should the court be able to say that, even though there is no obligation to continue to provide housing in these circumstances, it is not 'necessary in a democratic society' to permit the landowner to assert its property rights?
My Lords, I myself do not think that the purpose of article 8 was to oblige a social landlord to continue to supply housing to a person who has no right in domestic law to continue to be supplied with that housing, assuming that the general balance struck by domestic law was not amenable to attack and that the authority's decision to invoke that law was not open to judicial review on conventional grounds. It should not be forgotten that in an appropriate case, the range of considerations which any public authority should take into account in deciding whether to invoke its powers can be very wide: see eg R v Lincolnshire County Council and Wealden District Council, Ex p Atkinson, Wales and Stratford (1995) 8 Admin LR 529, R (Casey and others) v Crawley Borough Council  EWHC 301 (Admin).”
“Each of the cases before us is a classic example of one in which a defence based upon article 8 would have no real prospect of success ... In the Lambeth cases, the occupiers had undoubtedly established homes in the dwellings but they had done so on terms which made them vulnerable, like many sub-tenants, to the superior claims of the landowner. Lambeth's attempts to evict them were in accordance with the law and in pursuit of the legitimate aim of regaining control over this short life housing stock. All the [appellants] were offered alternative accommodation. It would take a very different case from that pleaded to give their claims to remain in the particular dwellings occupied a real prospect of success.”
“For my part I would accept that the recent Strasbourg jurisprudence requires some qualification to be placed on the Qazi principle; I cannot, however, agree that it requires, as the minority in Qazi suggested, the consideration (even if usually only the most cursory consideration) of an article 8 defence every time it is raised. My opinion is rather, and at this stage I state it very broadly, that although article 8 is clearly engaged in every home repossession case, its requirements are satisfied provided only and always, first, that the substantive domestic law under which the order is sought strikes an acceptable balance between the competing needs and rights at stake and, secondly, that that law is properly applied by the domestic court with the occupier being given a fair opportunity to invoke any defence available to him under it. If either of those two conditions is not satisfied then, I accept, a complaint would properly sound under article 8. But, as I shall seek to show, it by no means follows that article 8 provides the occupier in such cases with a freestanding defence independent of whatever rights he may have under domestic law.”
“Of course, where the domestic law requires the court to make a judgment (most notably perhaps in those cases ... where repossession can only be ordered if the court considers it reasonable), or to exercise a discretion, the judge will bear in mind that he is performing this task in the context of the defendant's article 8 right to respect for his home. But where under domestic law the owner's right to possession is plainly made out ..., the judge in my opinion has no option but to assume that our domestic law properly strikes the necessary balances between competing interests (as envisaged in paras 32 and 33 of my noble and learned friend Lord Bingham's judgment) and that in applying it properly he is accordingly discharging his duty under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 ... Where no statutory protection is afforded to occupiers that should be assumed to be Parliament's will: sometimes that will be clearly evident from the terms of the governing legislation ...; even, however, where the owner's rights arise at common law, the absence of statutory protection must surely be, as my noble and learned friend Lord Hope suggests, the result of a deliberate decision by Parliament to leave the owner's right to recover possession in these cases unqualified. As Lord Bingham observes at para 36, it is not unrealistic to regard the general law as striking the required balance.
One of the difficulties I have with the appellants' contended for application of article 8 in these cases is in understanding what sort of 'highly exceptional circumstances' (Lord Bingham's expression at paras 35 and 36) could possibly entitle the county court judge to disregard a clear provision of domestic law so as to deprive the owner ... of his apparently clear entitlement to possession; another is in understanding what are supposed to be the parties' respective rights and interests in the premises once the judge has felt obliged under article 8 to set aside the dictates of domestic law.
I too, therefore, would dismiss both these appeals but I would do so for a reason more fundamental than that suggested by certain others of your Lordships. These appellants' defences must fail, not because they disclose no sufficient (highly exceptional) personal merit but because they depend upon establishing a freestanding article 8 right to remain in possession incompatible with the respective claimants' clear entitlement to possession under domestic property law. I would hold that no such freestanding right exists.”
“There is, however, a quite different basis upon which an occupier could challenge a public authority's claim for possession, namely on the conventional public law ground that the decision to bring the claim was itself so unreasonable as to be unlawful. Such a defence can clearly be advanced in the county court ...
The difficulty with such a defence, however, is that it would be well nigh impossible to make good, the challenge necessarily postulating that under domestic property law the claimant authority was entitled to possession. Accordingly the argument could only be that no reasonable public authority could properly invoke that domestic law right. This would be a more stringent test than would apply were the court, as the appellants assert, under a primary duty to reach its own judgment on the justifiability of making a possession order.
It is difficult to suppose, however, that a defence based on a public law challenge of this character to a public authority's decision to pursue its domestic law rights could properly succeed except in such an infinitely rare case as Connors itself. Manifestly it could not have succeeded in either of the present cases which doubtless explains why defences of this particular character were not advanced.”
“The practical position, in future, in possession proceedings can be briefly summarised as follows. (1) It is not necessary for a local authority to plead or prove in every case that domestic law complies with article 8. Courts should proceed on the assumption that domestic law strikes a fair balance and is compatible with article 8. (2) If the court, following its usual procedures, is satisfied that the domestic law requirements for making a possession order have been met the court should make a possession order unless the occupier shows that, highly exceptionally, he has a seriously arguable case on one of two grounds. (3) The two grounds are: (a) that the law which requires the court to make a possession order despite the occupier's personal circumstances is Convention-incompatible; and (b) that, having regard to the occupier's personal circumstances, the local authority's exercise of its power to seek a possession order is an unlawful act within the meaning of section 6. (4) Deciding whether the defendant has a seriously arguable case on one or both of these grounds will not call for a fullblown trial. This question should be decided summarily, on the basis of an affidavit or of the defendant's defence, suitably particularised, or in whatever other summary way the court considers appropriate. The procedural aim of the court must be to decide this question as expeditiously as is consistent with the defendant having a fair opportunity to present his case on this question. (5) If the court considers the defence sought to be raised on one or both of these grounds is not seriously arguable the court should proceed to make a possession order. (6) Where a seriously arguable issue on one of these grounds is raised, the court should itself decide this issue, subject to this: where an issue arises on the application of section 3 [of the Human Rights Act 1998] the judge should consider whether it may be appropriate to refer the proceedings to the High Court”.
“The question then arises whether these cases should, even after this lapse of time, be remitted to the county court for consideration whether eviction is necessary in a democratic society, as that expression has been defined in the Strasbourg jurisprudence. I would favour that course if there appeared any reasonable prospect of the court deciding that it was not necessary. But it is clear that under domestic property law the appellants have no right to occupy their respective premises, of which the local authority has an unqualified right to possession. The appellants fall outside the categories to which Parliament has extended a measure of protection. The local authority has no duty to accommodate the appellants, but has a power and duty to manage its housing stock. The appellants have not pleaded or alleged facts which give them a special claim to remain. I am satisfied that if these cases were remitted, possession orders would necessarily be made ...”
The House of Lords judgment in Doherty
“As I said earlier, the speeches in Kay show that the route indicated by [gateway (b)] is limited to what is conveniently described as conventional judicial review. In para 60, for example, Lord Nicholls indicated that he had in mind a challenge in accordance with Wandsworth Borough Council v Winder  AC 461 on grounds which, he said, had nothing to do with the Human Rights Act 1998. In para 208 Lord Brown too acknowledged that this was a quite different basis from that which the Act provides upon which a public authority's claim for possession could be challenged. In para 110 of my own speech I described this as a challenge that would be made at common law, on the ground that the decision was one that no reasonable person would consider justifiable. In para 114 I said that the grounds on which the decision to claim possession could be judicially reviewed were whether it was arbitrary, unreasonable or disproportionate.
Gateway (b) then asserts that in possession cases brought by a public authority a defence which takes the form of a challenge to its decision to seek possession may be available. The court is not bound to make the order if the decision to seek it can be challenged on the ground that it was an improper exercise of the respondent's powers. In this respect the two routes, or 'gateways', may be said to work together to address the incompatibility due to the lack of a procedural safeguard, which is the fundamental point that is at issue in this case. Gateway (a) addresses the question whether the court can read and give effect to the statutes in a way that is compatible with article 8. If it cannot do this, it will be open to the defendant by way of a defence to argue under gateway (b) that the order should not be made unless the court is satisfied, upon reviewing the respondent's decision to seek a possession order on the grounds that it gave and bearing in mind that it was doing what the legislation authorised, that the decision to do this was in the Wednesbury sense not unreasonable. This route offers a procedural protection under the common law. If taken, it will enable the grounds on which the respondent based its decision to be scrutinised. It might, on the facts of this case, provide the appellant with an effective defence to the making of the possession order. The fact that it is available as a defence seems to me to strengthen the argument, should it be needed, that it also provides him with the protection which he seeks against an infringement of his Convention right.
I think that in this situation it would be unduly formalistic to confine the review strictly to traditional Wednesbury grounds. The considerations that can be brought into account in this case are wider. An examination of the question whether the respondent's decision was reasonable, having regard to the aim which it was pursuing and to the length of time that the appellant and his family have resided on the site, would be appropriate. But the requisite scrutiny would not involve the judge substituting his own judgment for that of the local authority. In my opinion the test of reasonableness should be, as I said in para 110 of Kay, whether the decision to recover possession was one which no reasonable person would consider justifiable”.
“As I said in para 109 of my opinion in Kay, and again at the outset of para 110, a defence to a possession order which does not challenge the law under which it is sought but is based only on the personal circumstances of the occupier should be struck out. The personal interests safeguarded by article 8 must be taken to have been sufficiently safeguarded by the fulfilment of the requirements for the recovery of possession by the landowner laid down by the statute or by the common law. That is the basic law that was established in Qazi and it is the point on which the majority in Kay differed from the minority: see ground (3)(b) in para 39 of Lord Bingham's opinion.”
“...The only proposition which is in any respect inconsistent with the majority opinions is proposition 3(b) and the inconsistency there is slight though important. Proposition 3(a) covers the same ground as Lord Hope's paragraph 110 gateway (a). But proposition 3(b) attributes to the occupier's personal circumstances a central importance that the majority opinions did not accept. The view of the majority, as expressed by Lord Hope in his gateway (b), was, as I have explained, that a local authority's decision to recover possession would be open to challenge on public law grounds and that the challenge could be raised as a defence in the possession proceedings. The personal circumstances of the defendant might well be a factor to which, along with the other factors relevant to its decision, a responsible and reasonable local authority would need to have regard. The question for the court would be whether the local authority's decision to recover possession of the property in question was so unreasonable and disproportionate as to be unlawful.”
“...the sentence 'Under gateway (b) the council's action was open to challenge on conventional judicial review grounds, but not on the grounds that it was contrary to Article 8' suggests a disharmony between 'conventional judicial review grounds' on the one hand and Article 8 on the other hand that I do not accept.”
“... Local authorities, being public authorities, are obliged by section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to act in accordance with the Convention rights incorporated by the Act into domestic law. They are obliged when deciding to terminate tenancies and recover possession of residential properties to act consistently with article 8. If a decision, for example to serve a notice to quit, is inconsistent with the article 8 rights of the person on whom it is served the decision would be unlawful and the notice to quit devoid of effect. Lord Hope's paragraph 110 establishes that a point of that sort can be raised as a defence to the possession proceedings. Such a defence would, if raised, be dealt with by a county court judge as part of the possession proceedings ...
... An article 8 defence requires the judge to review the lawfulness of the local authority's decision to recover possession of the property in question and, in doing so, to review the factors that a responsible local authority ought to have taken into account in reaching its decision. The proportionality of the decision in all the circumstances of the case would be central to the review and if the local authority's decision could be shown to be outside the range of reasonable decisions that a responsible local authority could take, having regard both to the circumstances of the defendant as well as to all the other relevant circumstances, the decision would be held to be unlawful as a matter of public law. But in a case in which it is not reasonably arguable on the face of the pleadings, or from the contents of the affidavits that have been filed, that that is so, the judge can be expected to make a summary order for possession. The adjective 'summary' in this context does not mean that the judge would not have considered the proportionality of the requested possession order. It means that the article 8 case put forward by the defendant for a conclusion that a possession order would be disproportionate is not, in the opinion of the judge, capable of being sustained by serious argument. The notion that a defence based on an article 8 right to respect for a home requires the case to proceed to a full trial even though it is apparent that the defence cannot succeed is clearly absurd. An application for a summary judgment does require the defendant's contention that a possession order would be disproportionate to be given proper attention and, if reasonably arguable, to be permitted to proceed to a full trial.”
“... As one of the minority in Kay, I must accept the decision of the majority, which distinguishes between grounds of judicial review which are based on the HRA [Human Rights Act] and grounds ('common law' or 'conventional' grounds) which are not based on the HRA. The minority accepted the view of Lord Bingham of Cornhill ... that article 8 might, highly exceptionally, provide a tenant or licensee with additional protection. Lord Hope, in the leading speech for the majority, disagreed (para 110). So did Lord Scott (para 172), Baroness Hale (paras 189-190) and (most emphatically) Lord Brown (paras 207-208).
... I think that I may properly express unease and indeed incomprehension at the suggestion, which is at least implicit in this part of the decision, that HRA grounds and traditional judicial review grounds can always be separately identified.”
“... Gateway (b), as expressed in paragraph 110 in Kay was, as I see it, phrased so as to exclude any direct application of the Convention rights or of the Strasbourg Court's test of proportionality, and to confine attention to common law grounds for judicial review, informed though they may increasingly be by ideas of fundamental rights: see also per Baroness Hale of Richmond at paragraph 190 and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood at paragraphs 208-211, and contrast the approach of the minority as set out in paragraph 39 of Lord Bingham of Cornhill's speech in Kay.
The general distinction which thus emerges is recognised and described in R (Daly) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKHL 26 per Lord Steyn (para. 27) and Lord Cooke of Thorndon (para. 32, recognising though regretting the distinction) and in R (ABCIFER) v. Secretary of State for Defence  EWCA Civ 473 ... paragraphs 32 to 37, where Dyson LJ, giving the judgment of the Court of Appeal, said that any abandonment of the common law's Wednesbury unreasonableness test for a proportionality test was a step which could only be taken by this House. Other potential differences between conventional (or 'domestic') judicial review were discussed in R (SB) v. Governors of Denbigh High School  UKHL 15 (see in particular per Lord Hoffmann at para. 68) and Belfast City Council v. Miss Behavin' Ltd.  UKHL 19
The difference in approach between the grounds of conventional or domestic judicial review and review for compatibility with Human Rights Convention rights should not however be exaggerated and can be seen to have narrowed, with 'the “Wednesbury” test ... moving closer to proportionality [so that] in some cases it is not possible to see any daylight between the two tests' (ABCIFER, para. 34, citing an extra-judicial lecture by Lord Hoffmann) ... Even so, as the subsequent history of ex p.Smith demonstrates, the result may not always achieve the degree of protection for Convention rights which the Strasbourg Court requires: Smith and Grady v. United Kingdom (1999) 29 EHRR 493. So there remains room in another case to reconsider how far conventional or domestic judicial review and Convention review can be further assimilated, and in particular whether proportionality has a role in conventional judicial review. This was not, however, argued on the present appeal, and, in common I understand with the majority of your Lordships, I do not consider that it is appropriate to embark on such a review on this appeal.
On this basis, in circumstances such as those in Kay, the only question under gateway (b) as expressed in Kay is whether the public authority's decision can be challenged on domestic judicial review grounds, in particular as having been based on material misconceptions or improper considerations or as unreasonable, either in the Wednesbury sense or in a more relaxed sense which takes full account of the basic interest which any occupant has in his or her home. In other words, in circumstances such as those in Kay, a full Convention review is not, at least nominally, possible on the majority view taken in Kay.”
“However, I for my part regret that it has not been possible on this appeal to agree to modify gateway (b) in paragraph 110 more generally, so as to allow express regard to be had to Human Rights Convention principles in relation to any defence raised against a public authority under the rule in Wandsworth LBC v. Winder, whether in circumstances such as those in Qazi, Connors, Kay and McCann or in circumstances such as the present. In paragraphs 19, 36 and 55 of his speech my noble and learned friend Lord Hope mentions the need to take account of any judgment of the Strasbourg Court and to give practical recognition to the principles that it lays down, and states that this can be done in the present circumstances by to some extent modifying the reasoning of the majority in Kay. At the same time, he rejects the suggestion that the House should depart from the majority view in Kay in favour of the minority, believing that this would create very real practical problems: paragraphs 19 to 20.
For my part, I am not persuaded that any significant problems would or need arise, as Convention-compliant statutory schemes are developed and public authorities become accustomed to tailoring their performance of their duties to Convention values. In a large number of cases, County Courts already tackle sensitive issues of reasonableness, as well as issues regarding breach of conditions of occupancy, when deciding whether to make or suspend possession orders; The limited modification that my noble and learned friend Lord Hope would make to gateway (b) of paragraph 110 (see paragraph 55) would add to such cases a further category in which review on traditional Wednesbury grounds was relaxed to become a more straightforward examination of reasonableness. If County Courts can handle such issues in possession claims, there is no reason to doubt their ability to tackle, robustly and with due despatch, the largely parallel issues which would arise from any direct application of the Convention principles in cases of challenges to public authority decisions to seek possession.”
e. The Court of Appeal post-Doherty
“First, there is no formulaic or formalistic restriction of the factors which may be relied upon by the licensee in support of an argument that the council's decision to serve a notice to quit, and seek a possession order, was one which no reasonable council would have taken. Such factors are not automatically irrelevant simply because they may include the licensee's personal circumstances, such as length of time of occupation. In Doherty, where the family had been in occupation for a substantial time without causing any trouble, but the council wanted to use the site in a different way, it might also be thought relevant whether the council had taken any steps to offer the family, or help them to acquire, alternative accommodation.
Secondly, the question whether the council's decision was one which no reasonable person would have made is to be decided by applying public law principles as they have been developed at common law, and not through the lens of the Convention.
Having said that the question whether the council's decision was unreasonable has to be decided by applying public law principles as they have been developed at common law, it is to be remembered that those principles are not frozen. Even before the enactment of the HRA, our public law principles were being influenced by Convention ways of thinking. Since its enactment, the process has gathered momentum. It is now a well recognised fact that the Convention is influencing the shape and development of our domestic public law principles, whether one uses the metaphors of embedding, weaving into the fabric, osmosis or alignment. (See the judgment of Lord Walker in Doherty at para 109).”
“But it is important to keep in mind that in Doran the court was concerned with a traveller and his eviction from a caravan site; the circumstances were thus similar to those being considered in Doherty but are far removed from the circumstances of the instant cases, which are very close to those which existed in Kay. I emphasise that point because although it can be said that Doran encourages the view that the personal circumstances of Mr Doran may not be irrelevant in considering a local authority's decision to serve a notice to quit, it will be necessary to go back to Kay and consider Doherty's impact on Kay where the circumstances are as in Kay and as they are in the instant cases. Doran would however suggest that in conducting a review of the council's decision Doherty has held that something wider than the Wednesbury rationality test was appropriate. In Doran (it is right to say) despite similarities with the circumstances in Doherty, unlike the House of Lords in Doherty, the court of appeal found that there was no purpose in remitting the matter because it was not arguable that the council acting reasonably could have come to any different decision.
In McGlynn the court was concerned with the termination of a tenancy by a local authority on the grounds of anti-social behaviour. The court held it was 'an unusual case' and that Mr McGlynn had a seriously arguable public law defence based on it being arguable (i) that a reasonable council would after service of the notice to quit have made further investigations as to whether there was further anti-social behaviour and (ii) that there had been a failure by the local authority to make those further investigations. The circumstances of McGlynn are far removed from the instant cases.”
“Two things are not in dispute which I emphasise at the outset. The decision of a public authority can be made the subject of judicial review and in the context of possession claims in the county court, the correct forum for that review, if an arguable point is raised, is the county court itself. Second even if in Kay Lord Hope intended gateway (b) to be confined to what I might term a 'rationality' challenge, in his speech in Doherty Lord Hope intended to extend to some extent the scope of judicial review beyond rationality even if not as far as a straightforward challenge by reference to the convention.”
“An authority such as the council in the instant appeals may make a decision on the facts as known to it to send a letter seeking possession. Prima facie it has no obligation to find out what the true facts are and the burden is going to be on the occupier to demonstrate any grounds relied on as providing an Article 8 defence. If the occupier informs the public authority of relevant circumstances, the public authority will have to take a further decision as to whether to commence proceedings. If no letter is received and the facts are only divulged just prior to the hearing, the public authority in reality has to take a further decision as to whether to proceed. Indeed if the revelation is only during the hearing, the council in deciding to continue to press for an order takes yet a further decision. I do not see why if any one of these decisions could be shown to be 'unreasonable' whatever that means (and I will come back to that), it could not be attacked.
If that is an appropriate analysis, because the county court is seized of the matter, it will be able to see whether there is an arguable case that in deciding even with the revelation of further facts to continue to seek possession is unreasonable. If 'reasonableness' connotes something wider than rationality, that will be very close in reality to the court itself examining a defence based on Article 8.”
“The law gives an owner of land the right to obtain possession against a trespasser. But the owner, if the occupier has his home on the land in question, cannot obtain possession other than through proceedings in court. The court has to satisfy itself as to the owner's rights but can in making an order for possession pay regard to the personal circumstances of the occupier. Statute circumscribes the court's powers in certain cases ... and in others does not do so. In cases such as the present and Kay, the court simply has a discretion whether to suspend the order for possession for a short period.
It follows that I would accept that the question whether a decision of a public authority is 'reasonable' post-Doherty goes beyond the question whether it is rational. I would also accept that a public authority should take account of the personal circumstances of the occupier known to it, but it does not follow from this that there will ever be circumstances in which it will be unreasonable to seek possession against trespassers in situations similar to those in Kay. Those situations may make it unreasonable not to allow a period of time to bring the possession order sought into effect but that is something which the court oversees and which the law allows for.
Ought we to remit in this case? In my view it would, just as in Kay, not be appropriate to do so. To echo the words of Lord Bingham in Kay, it is clear that under domestic property law the appellants have no right to occupy their respective premises, of which the council has an unqualified right of possession. The appellants fall outside the categories to which Parliament has provided protection. The council has no duty to accommodate the appellants and has a duty to manage its assets. The appellants have put in a draft pleading before us, but it does not allege any facts which provide some special claim to remain. If the matter were remitted the court would be bound to make an order for possession, although it would be entitled to take account of the personal circumstances in considering the time at which the order would be effective. That latter is something we could do without remission.”
2. Wednesbury unreasonableness
44. In Associated Provincial Picture Houses v Wednesbury Corporation  1 KB 223, Greene MR noted as follows:
“It is true the discretion must be exercised reasonably. Now what does that mean? Lawyers familiar with the phraseology commonly used in relation to exercise of statutory discretions often use the word 'unreasonable' in a rather comprehensive sense. It has frequently been used and is frequently used as a general description of the things that must not be done. For instance, a person entrusted with a discretion must, so to speak, direct himself properly in law. He must call his own attention to the matters which he is bound to consider. He must exclude from his consideration matters which are irrelevant to what he has to consider. If he does not obey those rules, he may truly be said, and often is said, to be acting 'unreasonably'. Similarly, there may be something so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority.
...the task of the court is not to decide what it thinks is reasonable, but to decide whether what is prima facie within the power of the local authority is a condition which no reasonable authority, acting within the four corners of their jurisdiction, could have decided to impose ...
... The court is entitled to investigate the action of the local authority with a view to seeing whether they have taken into account matters which they ought not to take into account, or, conversely, have refused to take into account or neglected to take into account matters which they ought to take into account. Once that question is answered in favour of the local authority, it may be still possible to say that, although the local authority have kept within the four corners of the matters which they ought to consider, they have nevertheless come to a conclusion so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it. In such a case, again, I think the court can interfere. The power of the court to interfere in each case is not as an appellate authority to override a decision of the local authority, but as a judicial authority which is concerned, and concerned only, to see whether the local authority have contravened the law by acting in excess of the powers which Parliament has confided in them.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 8 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his ... his home ...
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
1. The parties' submissions
a. The applicants
b. The Government
“But the legislation would nevertheless still have to be enforced, unless the decision of the public authority to seek to enforce it when faced with that incompatibility could be said, when judicially reviewed, to be arbitrary, unreasonable or disproportionate.”
c. The Equality and Human Rights Commission
2. The Court's assessment
a. General principles
“... The margin will tend to be narrower where the right at stake is crucial to the individual's effective enjoyment of intimate or key rights (see, for example, Dudgeon v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 22 October 1981, Series A no. 45, p. 21, § 52; Gillow v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 24 November 1986, Series A, no. 104, § 55). On the other hand, in spheres involving the application of social or economic policies, there is authority that the margin of appreciation is wide, as in the planning context where the Court has found that “[i]n so far as the exercise of discretion involving a multitude of local factors is inherent in the choice and implementation of planning policies, the national authorities in principle enjoy a wide margin of appreciation (Buckley v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 26 September 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-IV, p. 1292, § 75 in fine). The Court has also stated that in spheres such as housing, which play a central role in the welfare and economic policies of modern societies, it will respect the legislature's judgment as to what is in the general interest unless that judgment is manifestly without reasonable foundation (see Mellacher and Others v. Austria, judgment of 19 December 1989, Series A no. 169, p. 27, § 45, Immobiliare Saffi v. Italy [GC], no. 22774/93, ECHR 1999-V, § 49). It may be noted however that this was in the context of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, not Article 8 which concerns rights of central importance to the individual's identity, self-determination, physical and moral integrity, maintenance of relationships with others and a settled and secure place in the community (see, mutatis mutandis, Gillow v. the United Kingdom, cited above, § 55; Pretty v. the United Kingdom, no. 2346/02, ECHR 2002-III; Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom, no. 28957/95, § 90, ECHR 2002-VI). Where general social and economic policy considerations have arisen in the context of Article 8 itself, the scope of the margin of appreciation depends on the context of the case, with particular significance attaching to the extent of the intrusion into the personal sphere of the applicant (Hatton and others v. the United Kingdom, [GC] no. 36022/97, ECHR 2003-..., §§ 103 and 123).”
b. Application of the general principles to the present case
“...in summary proceedings such as those brought by the applicant, it was not open to the county court to consider any issue concerning the proportionality of the possession order, save in exceptional cases where, as the Court of Appeal put it in the present case, 'something has happened since the service of the notice to quit, which has fundamentally altered the rights and wrongs of the proposed eviction'. No such exceptional circumstances applied in the present case. Furthermore, although since the applicant's landlord was a public authority it was open to him to challenge the decisions to obtain the notice to quit and to bring possession proceedings in an application for judicial review, his application failed because the local authority had not acted unlawfully.”
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
(a) the sum of EUR 500 each to Ms Barnett and Mr Constantine for personal contributions to costs and expenses in the domestic proceedings;
(b) the sum of EUR 500 to Mr Breschinsky in respect of the legal advice sought as to his defence to the possession proceedings brought against him;
(c) the sum of EUR 2,000 altogether to Mr Kay and Mr Ballantine for the costs incurred in making the present application; and
(d) the sum of EUR 10,000 altogether to the applicants for the proceedings before the Court.
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) to each of the applicants in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 500 (five hundred euros) each to Ms Barnett and Mr Constantine, EUR 500 (five hundred euros) to Mr Breschinsky, EUR 2,000 (two thousand euros) altogether to Mr Kay and Mr Ballantine and EUR 10,000 (ten thousand euros) altogether to all the applicants in costs and expenses, inclusive of any tax that may be chargeable, to be converted into pounds sterling at the rate applicable on the date of settlement;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 21 September 2010, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Lawrence Early Lech Garlicki