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court ref no: CO/2857/95 ...
court ref no: CO/2857/95

A man whose 'intolerable' conduct included sending an excrement-smeared letter to Manchester City Council was justifiably struck off the re-housing list, the high court ruled.

Andrew Byron, 34, had asked the court to order the council to restore his name to the list, more than three years after the receipt of the soiled letter resulted in him being struck off.

But Mr Justice Harrison backed the city council, saying: 'It is for the local authority to decide whether the behaviour is such as to warrant deletion.

'This court will not interfere with that decision unless it can be shown to be so unreasonable that no reasonable housing authoity could have reached that decision.'

The judge said Mr Byron, currently in private rented accommodation at the Peel Estate, Wythenshawe, was struck off the re-housing list in October 1992.

Left disabled and unable to work after a fall on ice, Mr Byron had been made four offers of housing between April 1991 and August 1992, all of which he had rejected.

In March 1992, he complained to the Local Government Ombudsman, claiming the council 'had failed properly to deal with his application for housing', the judge said.

But in May 1992 he pleaded guilty at Manchester City Magistrates Court to a breach of the peace after an incident involving a council officer.

And the letter by which he refused the council's fifth offer of accommodation, which arrived smeared in excrement, was 'the final straw', the judge added.

The council wrote to Mr Byron in October 1992, saying: 'After careful consideration regarding the health and safety of the staff of this office, a decision has been taken to delete your application from the city council rehousing list with an immediate effect.

'Decisions of this nature are reluctantly taken, but it was felt that your actions have left the city council with no alternative'.

After hearing Mr Byron's complaint, the Local Government Ombudsman recommended that he be reinstated on the list and that the council pay him £100 compensation. But the council stuck to its guns.

And Mr Justice Harrison endorsed the council's stance, saying it was 'not outwith the bounds of reasonableness.

'I have no hesitation in concluding that the council did not act irractionally in deciding that Mr Byron's name should be deleted from the list, having regard to his unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour.

'Mr Byron can reapply to go on the re-housing list. I have no reason to doubt that if he shows that he is prepared to act reasonably and responsibly, the council will consider any such reapplication properly.

'For the reasons I have given, I conclude that the council did not act unreasonably or unfairly. It follows therefore that the application must be dismissed.'

Outside court a 'very pleased' Ray Smith, the city council's assistant director of housing, said the council had in no way overreacted in the face of Mr Byron's 'almost orchestrated campaign of bad behaviour'.

The judge's decision had 'put down a marker not just for Manchester but for the whole of local authority housing', he added.

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