Belfast Telegraph

First step cleared in legal challenge to Twaddell camp

By Alan Erwin

A nationalist resident cleared the first stage in a High Court challenge to the ongoing loyalist protest camp in north Belfast.

Lawyers for the woman issued proceedings against the Northern Ireland Housing Executive over its alleged failure to adhere to anti-social behaviour policy.

They claim noise from the Twaddell Avenue base is having an intolerable impact on her right to privacy in the nearby Ardoyne district.

Nightly demonstrations continue to be staged against restrictions imposed on an Orange Order parade through the flashpoint area.

An estimated £12m has now been spent on policing the encampment since it was set up last year.

The resident, who was granted anonymity in court yesterday, is seeking to judicially review the Housing Executive for allegedly "acquiescing" in the face of an unlawful trespass.

Citing entitlements to privacy and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, her legal team contend that a nuisance is being wrongly tolerated.

At a first hearing before Mr Justice Weir yesterday, counsel for the Housing Executive did not seek to have the case dismissed at this stage.

He confirmed his intention to submit affidavits from staff working in the area as part of a response to the action.

A point was also raised over the potential delay in taking legal action since a complaint was lodged with the housing authority back in May.

Under the court rules, judicial review proceedings must be lodged within three months of the issue under challenge. But a barrister instructed by Robert Murtagh and Co Solicitors to represent the resident argued that it was an ongoing situation.

"It is not relating to one point in time," he said.

Medical notes and a television documentary on the protest camp are also to be submitted to back up her case, the court heard.

Granting leave to seek a judicial review, the judge stressed that the threshold for establishing an arguable case is low.

He listed the action for a full, one-day hearing in January.

Loyalist demonstrators have maintained a continuous presence at the protest camp at the Woodvale/Ardoyne interface since last summer.

The ongoing north Belfast parading dispute has necessitated a major ongoing police presence. Earlier this month PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said the cost of policing the Twaddell Avenue protest camp in north Belfast is £40,000 per night.

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