High Court rejects human rights challenge by Irish Travellers displaced by Crossrail

10 Mar 2015

R (Mahoney and Others) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 589 (Admin)

Judgment, 9 March 2015

The High Court yesterday dismissed a claim by Irish Travellers that the legislative scheme for compensating those displaced as a result of compulsory purchase orders was incompatible with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Finding in favour of the Secretary of State, the Court ruled that such schemes were covered by the wide margin of discretion afforded by the courts to national Parliaments in matters of economic and social policy.

The claims were brought by Irish travellers living on a local authority caravan site in East London. The claimants were to be displaced from the site by Crossrail, a subsidiary of Transport for London, which required the site for the construction of a new railway. Since it was common ground that the claimants were being offered a suitable alternative on reasonable terms, the effect of s.33(2) of the Land Compensation Act 1973 was to preclude them from receiving a home loss payment (a payment to reflect a person’s distress of being compelled to move out of his home). The claimants argued that the legislation was incompatible with Article 14 of the ECHR, read together with Article 8 and Article 1 of the First Protocol, since it discriminated unlawfully between caravan dwellers and those living in dwelling-houses.

The Court stressed that s.33(2) concerned the area of economic and social policy, where Parliament enjoyed a wide margin of discretion which should be disturbed only if the measure was “manifestly without reasonable foundation”. In limiting the home loss payment to those cases where a suitable alternative caravan site on reasonable terms was not available, Parliament acted proportionately and reasonably. In particular, by incorporating flexible concepts of “suitable alternative site” and “reasonable terms”, s.33(2) enabled a decision maker to take into account any loss of amenity sustained by a caravan dweller on moving his caravan. Crucially, s.33(2) reasonably reflected the materially different situation of a caravan dweller, who could take his caravan with him on displacement and that of an occupier of a dwelling-house, who would lose the physical structure in which he lived, and the likely difference in distress suffered by the two. On that basis, the Court held, s.33(2) was not incompatible with the ECHR.

Click to read the full R (Mahoney and Others) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government judgment.

Ben Lask acted for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.