A COUNCIL tenant has spoken of his relief after judges ordered Southend Council to give up a three-year battle to get him evicted from his flat.
The council has spent about £50,000 trying to move Robert Armour from the Bewley Court tower block, in Whittingham Avenue, Southend, because of alleged antisocial behaviour.
The council continued despite evidence Mr Armour, who has lived in the flat since January 2011, was mentally ill.
A Southend County Court judge originally threw out the council’s possession order in March 2012, after hearing Mr Armour had behaved for almost a year prior to the hearing.
Later in the year, the council challenged that ruling in the High Court, but was again rebuffed.
Yesterday the council took its case to the Court of Appeal, where three of the country’s most senior judges threw out the council’s appeal.
Speaking after the latest hearing, Mr Armour said he was glad it was over. He added: “I’m just happy to have kept my home.
“I was homeless for 17 years and I was very worried about ending up on the streets again.”
The court of appeal heard almost immediately after Mr Armour moved into the flat, a neighbour complained he had sworn at and threatened them.
Mr Armour was later said to have been “rude and aggressive”
to a council official during a phone call about the flat’s boiler.
He was also said to have sworn at electricians working at the flat and to have turned the power back on while they were working, giving one of the workmen an electric shock.
Mr Armour has vehemently denied all the allegations from the outset.
The council launched possession proceedings in the county court and while the judge accepted the council had acted reasonably, he ruled Mr Armour’s eviction was “no longer proportionate”.
The court was told there were doubts about Mr Armour’s literacy skills and he had been diagnosed with depression and Asperger’s syndrome. The county court judge said for almost a year, he “had kept to the terms of his tenancy” and behaved.
The basis of both the council’s appeals was that the original judge had been “too generous”.
However, dismissing the case in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said the original judge had been entitled to conclude Mr Armour's eviction would have been “disproportionate”.
The ruling means Mr Armour now has a secure tenancy for his flat. However, Lord Justice Lewison warned him any antisocial behaviour could lead to renewed possession proceedings.