Traveller Law Database

Connors v United Kingdom Judgment (Application no. 66746/01)  

Date of Decision: Tue, 27 Apr 2004
Decision Making Body: European Court of Human Rights
Law Applied: European Convention on Human Rights
Keywords: Right to respect for private and family life, City Council
Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)

The complainant, a Gypsy argued that the powers of eviction of local authorities amounted to illegitimate interference with Article 8, 6, 13 and Article 1 Protocol 1 ECHR. The European Court of Human Rights found that the UK government violated the Applicant’s right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as a result of the respondent’s eviction procedures on halting sites.  


The applicant and his wife are Gypsies who follow a traditional, nomadic way of life. The applicants had experienced harassment and significant difficulties in maintaining a nomadic existence. As a result, they settled on a local authority’s halting site in Leeds where they lived permanently for about 13 years. In February 1997 however, they moved on owing to anti-social behaviour and disturbance prevalent on the site which they noted was significantly impacted upon their standard of life. Although they moved into a rented house they were unable to adapt to this form of living. 

In October 1998 the applicant returned to the aforementioned site and were granted a license to occupy a plot provided they did not cause a “nuisance”. The applicant’s daughter and partner were granted a license to occupy the adjacent plot. The applicant was later served with a notice to quit on the ground that members of his family had caused considerable nuisance at the site. The applicant contested this.  

At this stage, the applicant and his family had close ties to the area and experienced a number of health concerns.  Notwithstanding this they were evicted in the early hours of 1 August 2000, their caravan was not returned until late afternoon. On 3 August the council returned their possessions, which were dumped on the roadside some distance away from the applicant’s caravan. 

The applicant alleged that the family received no assistance save for an offer of accommodation a considerable distance from the area, which failed to take into account the family’s ties to the local community for the preceding 20 years.  

Since the eviction, the complainant and his family have been subjected to extreme stress owing to their being moved on frequently. As a result, the children had not returned to school and the complainant has separated from his wife, who moved into a house in May 2001. 


The applicant complained that he was not given the opportunity to challenge in court the allegations made against him which were the basis for his family’s eviction and that – unlike the owners of privately run sites, housing associations and local authority landlords –local authorities running Gypsy sites were not required to prove allegations against tenants (under the Mobile Homes Act 1983). He relied on Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 14 (prohibition of discrimination), 6 (right to a fair hearing) and 13 (right to an effective remedy). He further submitted alleged breaches of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) owing to the Council’s interference with his peaceful enjoyment of his possessions during the eviction.  

The respondent Government argued that the interference with the Applicant’s right to a private and family life under Article 8 was a justified interference as necessary in a democratic society and thus proportionate under the scope of the Article. They further argued in relation to Article 6 and 13, that the applicant could challenge the reasonableness of the Council’s actions in judicial review proceedings and require the Council to show that they had lawfully determined the license, thus there was no breach of these articles. Regarding Article 1 Protocol 1, the respondent submitted that the complainant could also have taken action against any individual officer who had acted unlawfully, and the law of tort was available to remedy any unlawful interference with his property thus, no such breach arose.  


Article 8 

The Court observed that the vulnerable position of gypsies as a minority meant that some special consideration had to be given to their needs and their different lifestyle both in the relevant regulatory framework and in reaching decisions in particular cases. To that extent, there was a positive obligation on the United Kingdom to facilitate the Gypsy way of life. In highlighting the serious nature of the eviction, which had rendered the family homeless, the Court surmised that the core consideration in applying Article 8 was a determination of whether the legal framework concerning the occupation of local authority halting site pitches provided the applicant with sufficient procedural protection of his rights.  

In stressing the vulnerability of the applicants and the implications of the Council’s actions, the Court noted that there was a narrow margin within which the Council could justify interference with the applicant’s rights under Article 8, in pursuance of the public interest. The Court outlined that anti-social behaviour upon halting sites could not, in itself, justify a summary power of eviction. They outlined disparities between how such incidences are addressed within local authority housing estates where the Council may only proceed to evict subject to independent court review of the justification for the measure.  

In examining the respondent’s justifications for this, the Court was critical of the suggestion that a difference in policy approach to local authority housing tenancies and halting site licenses was justified by virtue of the low financial costs attaching to local authority sites. In rebutting this, the Court had notice to evidence provided by the applicant that such licenses did not confer a lower financial rate, in fact, the applicant paid double the rate of a local authority housing tenancy. 

The Court recognised the challenges for authorities in facilitating the Gypsy way of life and were mindful of the margin of appreciation afforded to states in adopting and pursuing their social and housing policies. The Court, however, was not persuaded that the authority’s statutory scheme which permitted the summary eviction of the applicant and his family had been sufficiently demonstrated by the United Kingdom Government. The power to evict, without the burden of giving reasons liable to be examined as to their merits by an independent tribunal, had not been convincingly shown to respond to any specific goal or to provide any specific benefit to members of either the Gypsy or settled community and thus could not be regarded as justified by a “pressing social need” or proportionate to the legitimate aim being pursued resulting in a breach of Article 8.  

Since there was a violation of Article 8, the Court held that no separate issue arose under Article 6, 13, 14 as well as Article 1 of Protocol no. 1 


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