A man has been threatened with eviction because of a website he runs. Glasgow's John Quinn has been served with an eviction notice because he used to run a website criticising his landlord, the Glasgow North Housing Association (GNHA).
The case, due to be heard in Glasgow's Sheriff Court yesterday, was postponed while Quinn's legal team sought legal aid to pay for advocates. The case will determine whether or not Quinn can continue to live in his rented flat. GNHA claims that the site is affecting its staff and that Quinn's alleged publishing of it constitutes anti-social behaviour.
"I have seen housing association tenants put a baseball bat over somebody's head, I've seen drug dealing, these are actions that are threatening life and this is an electronic thing on the internet. If they don't like it they don't have to look at it," Quinn told OUT-LAW. "To evict someone from their home over this is overstepping the mark."
Quinn said that he has not operated the website since last April, when he promised the Sheriff Court that he would stop operating it after GNHA obtained an interim interdict (known as an interim injunction outside Scotland). He passed control on to other local residents, he said.
"I communicate with them like I would communicate with anyone, and I don't think that's breaking the law. It's down to the website if they want to publish it, the onus is on them," he said. The site, aboutnorthglasgowha.com is a heated display of residents' extreme dissatisfaction with the behaviour of GNHA and its director, Robert Tamburrini.
The GNHA provided OUT-LAW with a statement. It said: "We have taken appropriate action against this individual on grounds of harassment and anti-social behaviour. We have a duty to protect the rights of other tenants, committee members and staff who have been subjected to a continuous campaign of vexatious and unreasonable behaviour. The matter is now subject to legal proceedings and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
Communities Scotland regulates housing associations, but it does not appear to have taken action in response to the complaints made by Quinn. In a statement to OUT-LAW it said: "Mr Quinn has raised various issues with Communities Scotland. We advised him to talk to his landlord and seek suitable legal advice. It is not appropriate for Communities Scotland to comment further on a complaint where legal action is underway.”
Solicitor and housing law lecturer Mike Daly of the Govan Law Centre will represent Quinn. "In 12 years of housing law I have never seen anything like it," said Daly.
He will argue that the move is in breach of the Human Rights Act. "The Act applies because the housing association takes public money, and because it houses homeless people and is regulated by the Housing Scotland Act and is a regulated social landlord."
The dispute began when Quinn published a photograph of Tamburrini, who then called the police, according to documents relating to Quinn's defence. "When the pursuers’ director saw this photograph it is understood he contacted the local community police officer, PC Derek Cavanagh, to demand that the defender be charged because he felt he appeared as unprofessional, lazy and uncaring," the documents say.
The defence will centre on Quinn's right to freedom of expression, his right to respect for his home and to respect for his property rights, all contained in the Human Rights Act, said Daly. That Act says that a public authority must not behave in a manner contrary to that Act.
Quinn claims that repairs to his flat are not being carried out and that an enormous amount of antisocial behaviour in GNHA areas does not attract any action by the GNHA. He also says that when a fatal stabbing occurred in his close and he asked the housing officer present to ensure that the blood was cleaned up, she laughed at him. "It's quite distressing, there are still blood stains on the close. She was more concerned that the person who committed the murder will could come back his flat. I will never forget the sight on that lady's face," he said.
"I have written to the Scottish Executive, to the First Minister Jack McConnell and the Justice Minister but my complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears," said Quinn.
GNHA cannot evict Quinn without an order from the Sheriff Court. The case, due to be heard yesterday, has been frozen while legal aid is found to pay for advocates, said Quinn.