Seven years after she was first served with an eviction notice and four years after her appeal was dismissed and she left a Port Talbot gypsy site, Maria Buckland has won £3,000 damages in the European Court of Human Rights. The judges in Strasbourg ruled that her right to a home and family life had been violated when all the members of her extended family were evicted from six caravan pitches at Caegarw Farm.
The site is owned by Neath Port Talbot Council but managed by the Gypsy Council, which evicted the family for causing trouble. The President of the Gypsy Council, Hughie Smith, claimed that they had made life a misery for the other tenants. Unlike her relatives, Maria Buckland was allowed by Swansea County Court to remain on the site for several months so long as her son left her caravan. After that she was able to stay put whilst the Court of Appeal considered her claim that her human rights had been violated.
The Appeal Court threw out the case and Maria Buckland was forced to leave the site after the House of Lords refused to grant her a hearing in 2008. She then took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which ruled today that her right to a family and home life had been violated because she did not have the chance to argue against the eviction on the grounds of her personal circumstances.
€4,000 is approximately £3,000. Maria Buckland was awarded the same amount in legal costs. Her actual legal costs are thought to run to tens of thousands of pounds and will be met by legal aid. The Gypsy Council estimate that the case had already cost it £35-40,000 before going to Strasbourg, where Maria Buckland sued the UK government. The United Kingdom has three months to challenge today's judgment and ask for a full hearing before the European Court of Human Rights.