In the Media

Judge rules gipsy can stay at illegal site to help him beat heroin addiction

PUBLISHED May 7, 2009

A Romany gipsy has won a High Court battle allowing him to stay on an illegal travellers' site, after a judge ruled it would help him beat his heroin addiction.

Tom Smith, 30, was evicted from the illegal 100 by 80ft plot in Willingham, Cambs, along with his partner and four children in November 2008.

But Smith, who is currently on probation, took South Cambridgeshire District Council to the High Court to fight the move and returned to the site pending the appeal.

Now Judge Richard Seymour QC has overruled an injunction preventing anybody living on Plot Three at Cadwin Fields, to help Mr Smith get his life back together.

"It is plain on the uncontested evidence that Mr Smith, at this sensitive moment as he continues to try to overcome his heroin addiction, requires effective support," Judge Seymour told the court.

Speaking at the site on Wednesday, Smith said he bought the plot as a "last resort" after his heroin addiction "got out of control".

Smith, who freely admitted burgling people's homes to fund his habit, claimed the council had unfairly discriminated against him.

"I have been in a really bad way with heroin and I was completely addicted.

"I had been in loads of trouble with the police and my partner had left me and was going to take the kids. She had had enough.

"I had been breaking into people's homes to get money for gear and my family realised I was in a lot of trouble so they all chipped in to buy me a plot where I could get clean about 12 months ago.

"The council have completely discriminated against me and my family. Me and my kids aren't different to anybody else."

Smith lives with his pregnant partner Esther Loveridge, 28, and his children Shannon, seven, Courtney, six, Connie, five, and Tom, four.

He added: "They are just discriminating against me because I lived on the traveller's site. I'm pleased that the judge at the High Court thought they were discriminating against me too."

The court was told Smith had been off drugs for six months and he and his children had been living in "dire" conditions at nearby Potton travellers' site with relatives.

In a witness statement Smith said he had tried living in a house 28 miles away in Biggleswade, Beds, but had "an aversion to bricks and mortar" and could not stand it.

Judge Seymour said Mr Smith would benefit from the support of family members as he battled his drug addiction and should be allowed to stay close by.

He said: "The evidence clearly demonstrates there is immediately available, adjacent to Cadwin Fields, a network of family support."

South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) first obtained an injunction against gipsies occupying Cadwin Fields with caravans or any other buildings in November 2006.

In October 2008 a routine inspection revealed Mr Smith and his family were living at the site and were told to leave by November 14.

The site was cleared in November 27 but reoccupied again just weeks later, pending an appeal by Smith's partner Ms Loveridge against SCDC's refusal to grant planning permission.

The family's application for temporary planning permission won the backing of the council's planning officers, but was then refused in a committee vote in February.

One of the reasons given was that Willingham school was already full to capacity and allowing planning permission would add four more children to the catchment area.

But Smith branded the decision discriminatory and claimed that applications for new homes in the village could still be granted planning permission.

Now the family's planning application will be considered by a Government inspector at a public inquiry scheduled for July.

Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire said he was "surprised" by the High Court ruling.