Disabled man 'under court protection' evicted

Andy McSmith
Thursday 19 May 2011 00:00
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A disabled man who is supposedly being protected by the courts was wandering homeless yesterday after bailiffs used sledge-hammers to evict him from his home.

Lee Gilliland, 42, said that had no warning of their arrival, because a court has ruled that he is not competent to look after himself.

When The Independent tracked him down, he was in a Bristol cattery, trying to arrange a safe home for his four cats, having no idea where he would be spending the night.

His case has been taken up by the campaigning Lib Dem MP, John Hemming, who says that it illustrates serious flaws in the way the legal system deals with people who are judged to be unable to manage their own affairs.

Mr Gilliland has been told that the Official Solicitor is handling his affairs, but claims that no one representing the Official Solicitor warned him that bailiffs from the High Court were coming to evict him.

“They came at about 10 this morning with sledge hammers, and smashed out the windows and doors,” he said. “I was in the back room downstairs pleading with them through a the wall, but they just smashed the door open.

“I had no warning whatsoever. About 20 people just turned up, including police and fire engines with ladders.

“The police want to take me to a shelter for the homeless, but I’m agoraphobic and I have panic attacks and asthma, so I can’t be around other people. I don't know where I'll spend the night. I'm homeless. I'm going to shop near where I lived to see if they'll help me.”

Mr Gilliland’s case follows a series of Court of Protection cases in which judges have been asked to rule on whether individuals have the mental capacity to look after their own interests. Mr Gilliland says that he was never shown the medical report on which his judgement was based.

He added: “They say I lack mental capacity, so everything that has been done has been through the Official Solicitor – but he has never contacted me, because as far as he is concerned, I’m comatose. You can form your own opinion on that.”

The judgement means that Mr Gilliland has been unable to choose a solicitor to represent him in a dispute over his grandmother’s will. He claims that the solicitor appointed for him by the state agreed that he would have to move out of the £100,000 house where he says he has lived most of his life, and that he would settle for half the sale price, the bulk of which is likely to be consumed by legal costs.

Yesterday, Mr Hemming wrote to the Official Solicitor protesting at Mr Gilliland’s treatment.

“His legal rights have been removed from him and now he has been made homeless without any notification that people were about to smash his door down,” Mr Hemming said.

“This case differs from many of the Court of Protection cases only in that you are allowed to report it. Others are covered by secrecy. It shows how badly run the system can be.”

Bristol police confirmed yesterday that they were called to observe while bailiffs carried out a High Court order to take possession of Mr Gilliland’s home. “Our role was purely to prevent a breach of the peace,” a spokesman said.

Mr Gilliland's solicitor was not available for comment yesterday. A spokesman for the Official Solicitor said: "We do not comment on individual cases."

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