Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Court blow to family who fled terror

A mother and daughter who quit their interface homes amid repeated sectarian threats have failed in a legal challenge to being denied sales through a special initiative for intimidated owners.

Rosaleen and Annette Cooley suffered criminal damage and abuse while living in houses at Mountpottinger Road, an area of east Belfast blighted by disorder and violence. While neither homeowner is living there now, they attempted to sell through the Housing Executive's scheme for the purchase of evacuated dwellings (SPED).

Both applications were turned down, however, after the PSNI refused to issue a Chief Constable's certificate – a requirement under the scheme.

Although it was accepted that they have been directly or specifically threatened or intimidated, police concluded in November 2011 they were not at risk of death or serious injury.

A judicial review challenge to that determination was launched at the High Court in Belfast. It set out how 69-year-old Rosaleen Cooley is an elderly lady with a serious mental health problem whose daughter Annette now lives with and cares for her.

In a letter to the Chief Constable on Annette Cooley's behalf, SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell described how the windows on her home were covered by steel grids and triple-glazed for extra reinforcement against missile attacks.

Dr McDonnell stated: "Annette, her family and any guests remain in the kitchen at the back instead of the living room at the front. Lights cannot be put on at this side of the house during the night, because this is an indication that there is someone inside, and often a precursor to missile attacks."

Her doctor also stated that she has suffered anxiety, stress and sleeplessness due to threats, abuse and other problems over 13 years living on the interface.

But Mr Justice Treacy yesterday rejected all arguments in their challenge. He held that the Assistant Chief Constable, who made the decision, had taken account of all relevant considerations.

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