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APPEAL COURT ASKED TO DENY 'DRUG DEALER'S' RIGHT-TO-BUY

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Case no: CCRTF 95/1267/H ...
Case no: CCRTF 95/1267/H

Bristol City Council is mounting an appeal court bid to stop a suspected drugs dealer from exercising his right to buy his council home which he is said to have 'fortified' against attack.

The man - who cannot be named for legal reasons - claims he has an absolute right under the Housing Act to buy at a discount his council home where he has been a tenant since the 1970s.

But Robert Levy, for the city council, said it would be the 'grossest imaginable' injustice if the council were forced by the law to sell the property to the man for £16,670.

He said the man was currently on remand awaiting trial on drugs offences, and was accused of being 'in a large way of business' in the illegal drugs trade.

The appeal court heard claims that the man had 'fortified' his council house - fitting closed circuit television and other security devices - and Mr Levy said that 'dirty money' might be used for its purchase.

'It could not have been the intention of parliament that a gentleman in this position should, by dint of his hard labours in selling drugs at all hours of the day and night, be able to purchase the property at all, or at a discount,' he added.

The man - in his late 40s - applied to exercise his statutory right to buy the property in 1994, but the council insists it is under no obligation to accept his offer.

In July last year, Judge Batterbury at Bristol County Court refused to grant the council a possession order, and ordered it to convey the property to the tenant. It is that decision which the council is now challenging.

To allow the man to purchase his council house might allow him to 'carry on his business' there, to the detriment of the local community, said Mr Levy.

Judge Batterbury had been wrong to dismiss the council's 'public interest defence', he added.

But the man's counsel, Alex Ralton, said that this was a 'classic case' in which a tenant had an 'established' right to buy his own home.

'Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case my client is entitled to his injunction right now,' he added.

Mr Ralton disputed the council's serious view of the case, adding: 'I can imagine far worse cases with little difficulty'.

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Harry Woolf, Lord Justice Morritt, and Lord Justice Hobhouse reserved their ruling in the case, saying they would give their judgement as soon as possible.

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