There was no error in a judge’s decision refusing relief from sanctions and ordering outright possession against tenants who had not complied with a court order in possession proceedings, which had been brought as a result of their antisocial behaviour.
The appellant tenants (B) appealed against a decision refusing relief from sanctions and upholding an earlier debarring decision, and granting the respondent housing association (P) possession of a property occupied by B.
B were brother and sister and they had become joint assured tenants of a property when it was included in a housing stock transfer from a local authority to P. There had been ongoing problems between B and their neighbours and B had brought protection from harassment proceedings against a neighbour and obtained an indefinite injunction. P claimed that there had been several incidents of antisocial behaviour on B’s part over a seven-year period. It was alleged that B played loud music, there was hammering and banging on the walls, excrement and other items had been thrown from the property and that recordings of neighbours had been made which were sometimes replayed at high volume. The Metropolitan Police brought proceedings against B under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, and a three-month antisocial behaviour closure order was made against B, which was extended for a further three months. B’s appeal to a Crown Court was unsuccessful and an appeal by way of case stated was dismissed. An antisocial behaviour injunction was also obtained. In the meantime, P brought possession proceedings against B under ground 12 and ground 14 of the Housing Act 1988 Sch.2. B failed to comply fully with directions for exchange of witness statements, disclosure of DVD evidence and an order was made debarring B from defending the matter. On appeal, the judge refused relief from sanctions under CPR r.3.9 and made an outright possession order.
B submitted that the judge made errors of law and principle, and his refusal to set aside the debarring order was disproportionate as the effect was to deprive B permanently of their home.
HELD: It was trite law that a challenge to the exercise of a judge’s discretion could not be successful unless it was shown that it was wrong in principle or plainly wrong; there was no basis for saying so in the instant case. There had been an undeniable and lamentable failure by B to comply with the order of the court. The judge had taken all relevant matters into account including B’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights art.8 when refusing to set aside the debarring order. There had been no offer on B’s part that the anti-social behaviour would not occur in the future and they had denied that the allegations against them had taken place. There was no basis for setting the judge’s decision aside.