An Irish traveller forced to leave an illegal site failed to persuade senior judges today that a local authority should be obliged to re-home him in a caravan.
Mr Sheridan was living on an unauthorised traveller site at Dale Farm, near Basildon
John Sheridan, 34, said he had an ”aversion to bricks and mortar accommodation” and a psychiatrist concluded that forcing him to live in a one-bedroom flat in Basildon, Essex, ”could amount to a death sentence”.
But the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Sheridan’s challenge and said Basildon Borough Council had not acted unreasonably or unlawfully in offering the flat.
A council review panel and a county court judge had earlier also ruled against Mr Sheridan, who was living on an unauthorised traveller site at Dale Farm, near Basildon.
Appeal judges heard that Mr Sheridan had a “number of medical and psychiatric problems”, a history of excessive drinking and was prone to depression.
His mood would “deteriorate” and he would “become deeply depressed” if forced to move to “bricks and mortar accommodation”, psychiatrist Mark Slater had told them.
“He has stated that he would become suicidal and he told me that he would ‘drink himself to death’,” said Dr Slater.
“Overall, I believe that there would be a significant risk of Mr Sheridan suffering psychiatric harm if he was forced to accept the accommodation proposed by the council.
“I do not think it would be overstating it to say that it could amount to a death sentence for him.”
But appeal judges Sir Andrew Morritt, the Chancellor of the High Court, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford ruled in the council’s favour and dismissed Mr Sheridan’s appeal.
Lord Justice Patten said in a written ruling – handed down today after a hearing in London in February – that the council had not been “unreasonable”, interfered with Mr Sheridan’s human rights or made any “error of law”.
Council officials had said no traveller plots were available in Essex – and Lord Justice Patten said there was “really no evidence” to support an argument that “possible sites” existed.
He said a local authority could not be required to acquire land as part of a duty to provide accommodation for homeless people.
The council said local health services could deal with Mr Sheridan’s “pyschiatric” problems – and Lord Justice Patten said that approach was “not unreasonable”.
Judges dismissed similar appeals by Mr Sheridan’s estranged wife, Barbara, who looked after the couple’s three children, and traveller Mary Flynn.
They said all three travellers had lived at Dale Farm and were eligible for “housing assistance” because they were “not intentionally homeless” and were in “priority need”.
Judge rules bricks and mortar not ‘death sentence’ for traveller