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Widow not entitled to emergency scheme after house targeted by suspected loyalist paramilitaries


Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court

A widow whose house in Belfast was targeted by suspected loyalist paramilitary arsonists is not entitled to have it purchased through an emergency scheme, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Colton held that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive lawfully refused to buy the woman’s repeatedly vandalised bungalow on the basis it was not her principal home.

He said: “There is no doubt that she has been the victim of unacceptable and appalling intimidation.

“However, the decision by the Executive that she is not eligible… for the premises to be purchased by the Executive is a rational and lawful one, supported by the evidence.”

The woman, who cannot be identified, is believed to have been subjected to a race-hate campaign because her late husband was a foreign national.

Her property was said to have been attacked and burgled, with £6,000 worth of items stolen, windows smashed and rubbish dumped at the front door.

At one stage a neighbour allegedly stated that he “didn't want P**** living next door".

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In 2013 the woman’s property was so badly damaged by arsonists that it had to be rebuilt.

Loyalist paramilitaries are believed to have been responsible for the series of attacks which have left her in an increased state of fear, the court heard.

The woman, whose husband died in 2016, also has another house in Co Down.

In 2019 she applied to the Housing Executive to buy her Belfast bungalow under the Scheme for the Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings.

SPED allows the authorities to buy homes from those unable to continue living in them due to acts of violence, threats or intimidation.

One of the conditions is that the house must be owner-occupied and the applicant's only or principal home.

Following previous judicial review proceedings, the Executive refused the application again in March 2021 because she failed to meet that criteria.

An official involved in the decision identified a lack of evidence that the bungalow had been her principal home at the relevant time.

But the woman stated she intended to move into it in July 2015, only to vacate it three days later following a further attack.

Her lawyers claimed that decision was irrational, in breach of the scheme and a violation of human rights.

However, Mr Justice Colton said the evidence pointed to the property being rented out prior to the arson attack, with the woman unable to occupy it following the rebuild due to subsequent events.

Throughout the relevant period her principal residence was the address in Co Down, he held.

Rejecting her challenge, the judge confirmed: “The court is not satisfied that there has been any illegality in the decision made by the respondent.

“It was a rational and reasonable decision which lawfully applied the relevant criteria for consideration of the SPED application made by the applicant.”

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