BY TOBY PORTER
A 23-year-old man who hears voices telling him to kill himself has won a case to get a flat after town hall chiefs told initially him he was “not vulnerable”.
Troy Guiste, a qualified plumber from Herne Hill, went all the way to the Court of Appeal after being turned down for accommodation.
The former pupil of Thornton Heath’s Shaftesbury Park Primary School has suffered from delusions of men telling him to commit suicide since his father was murdered in prison seven years ago. He is believed to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Guiste’s limbs also twitch because of his low levels of calcium – called hyperparathyroidism. He currently shares a one-bed flat with his mum and has to sleep in the sitting room.
There are holes in the wall where he has punched throughthe plaster in a rage. But Lambeth council told him he was not a priority on its homelessness list – after it outsourced the decision to a private firm.
Mr Guiste faced the prospect of homelessness after his mother was evicted for letting out a room of her council flat in Crescent Lane, Clapham while she looked after her dying mother in Luton – even though it was a former friend who had handed over the keys. She also built up rent arrears while staying in Luton.
Since then the pair have been in temporary accommodation in Leigham Court Road, Streatham and Union Road, Clapham.
His mother, an English teacher who homeschooled her son in his teens, said: “Troy has been turned away and he gets angry. It has been horrible. I do not want him to end up in prison because he gets upset.
“My son is suffering from the consequences of my bad decision. It is not his fault. Some places we have been housed recently, he has had a gun pulled on him and been robbed.
“I am so relieved he has won the case – I was given the solicitor’s name by a blind friend of mine whose daughter was having housing problems.
“Troy’s key workers at Mosaic Clubhouse in Brixton have been amazing but we are both walking on eggshells. I should care about me but all I care about is Troy.”
Mr Guiste applied as homeless but housing officers said he was “not significantly more vulnerable compared to an ordinary person when homeless”.
This was upheld on review by RMG Limited, to which Lambeth outsources such cases, and that decision was upheld on appeal to the county court.
This was despite expert evidence obtained by Osbornes Law, acting for Troy, from Dr Judith Freedman, whom the Court of Appeal called Mr Guiste’s “distinguished consultant psychiatrist”.
She said his symptoms could worsen if he were made homeless, and he would particularly “be at risk of hallucinations, demanding that he self-harm and/or hang himself”.
Giving the unanimous ruling of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Henderson found that the RMG review officer, Dorothy Ubiam, failed to explain why she had disregarded this evidence, instead preferring evidence from two psychiatrists instructed by NowMedical who were “less highly qualified” than Dr Freedman – and neither had ever talked to Mr Guiste, even after Osbournes asked them to. They also refused to talk to his solicitor about the case.
The judge said: “Ms Ubiam appears to have accepted that further suicidality was not unlikely. But in the very next sentence, Ms Ubiam said she thought there was no current evidence to indicate that Mr Guiste would experience harm or deterioration as a result of homelessness.”
The court ordered that a new review decision was reached by a different and “experienced” review officer.
Mr Guiste’s solicitor, Edward Taylor of Osbornes Law, said: “It is worrying that we have had to fight so hard just to ensure the clear psychiatric evidence in this case is properly considered.
“Troy is an incredibly vulnerable young man who risks being cut adrift by society if his need to be housed is not a priority.
“The judgment sends a strong message to councils to reach rational decisions in future, which would achieve justice without expensive and time-consuming court proceedings.”
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “Lambeth is in the grip of a housing crisis with 28,000 people on our housing waiting list and 2,376 homeless families in temporary accommodation provided by the council.
“We are seeking to build as many homes at council level rents as possible, but in the face of this crisis all councils face making incredibly difficult decisions every day as this case so clearly demonstrates.
“The judge has just ordered a fresh review of the decision made in this case, and directed that it should be undertaken by an experienced officer. We note the judge’s ruling, and will take appropriate steps.”