Scottish Human Rights Commission to intervene in Serco lock-change evictions
The Scottish Human Rights Commission has been granted leave to intervene in the continuing legal challenge to the “serious human rights implications” of Serco’s lock-change policy.
The private accommodation provider began its mass eviction policy of up to 300 people in Glasgow, whose claims for refugee protection have been refused, by changing the locks at two properties last week.
Lawyers are questioning the legality of such evictions which are being carried out without court orders and a series of interim interdicts have been secured by law centres, advice agencies and charities.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission said the policy evicts people from their homes with no opportunity to defend themselves against the decision.
The Commission’s intervention at the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh – the first time it has used its power to intervene in civil litigation – will be made in the case of Ali v Serco and the Home Secretary. The case was first heard by the Court of Session’s Outer House. The decision of that court was issued in April 2019 and is now being appealed.
The appeal comes alongside multiple successful challenges in the Sheriff Court which have temporarily prevented people from being evicted in 41 out of 44 cases until the important issues raised in this case are resolved.
Judith Robertson, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “This case raises serious human rights implications for people who are already in a deeply vulnerable position. Nobody should be left deliberately destitute and homeless by the actions of the state, or by organisations delivering services on the state’s behalf.
“Everyone has a right to a private and family life, to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and, in terms of international law, a right to adequate housing. The UK government has corresponding legal obligations to protect these rights, as does Serco when it comes to providing housing services on its behalf.
“Locking people out of their homes, leaving them destitute and vulnerable on Scotland’s streets, is, in the Commission’s view, a clear violation of these human rights responsibilities.
“There is a significant public interest in ensuring that governments and their contractors are held to account when they disregard their human rights obligations. Strengthening accountability for human rights breaches is a key priority for the Commission and we are therefore pleased to have been granted leave to intervene in this case.”
The case is now expected to be heard in the Court of Session on August 28.