The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a Birmingham man’s right to privacy and to a family life was violated when he was evicted from his home by the city council.
Judges ordered the British Government to pay compensation of £1,587 as well as costs of £59,000, as Birmingham City Council had not broken UK law.
The authority evicted Gerrard McCann from his three-bedroom home in the city after he moved into the property without permission, a judgment issued by the Strasbourg-based court said.
Mr McCann, who was born in 1938, originally lived in the council-owned home with his wife. However, their marriage broke down and Mr McCann moved out in April 2001.
His wife and their children then left the property in August that year, leaving it empty. But unknown to the city council, Mr McCann moved back into the property three months later, the judgment said.
In January 2002, a council housing officer realised the property was being used. The authority asked Mrs McCann to sign a form indicating she had formally moved out, allowing it to evict her husband.
However, the court ruled that Birmingham City Council had been wrong to evict Mr McCann based on his ex-wife’s formal notice that she was quitting the property, as it paid to respect to his right to remain in the house.
The court said: "Any person at risk of losing his home, which is a most extreme form of interference with the right to respect for one’s home, should be able to have the proportionality of the measure determined by an independent tribunal, even if, under domestic law, the right of occupation had come to an end."
But the court said Birmingham had not broken UK law. It said: "The Court considered that that interference had been in accordance with the law and had pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the local authority’s right to regain possession of property from an individual who had no contractual or other right to be there."
A council spokeswoman said: "The case went before the Court of Appeal which found in our favour, and leave to appeal to the House of Lords was denied.
"The case in the European Court of Human Rights was against the United Kingdom, not the city council, because we obeyed UK law."