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Recortes de Prensa

Supreme Court vindicates Priors

Costa Almería News, 24 | 04 | 2009 – Noticia

Judges overturn demolition order of expat couple’s home

The highest court in the land has ruled in favour of the Priors after three judges said the couple’s rights had been violated because they had not been officially notified over the Junta’s decision to revoke their building licence.

Len and Helen Prior’s home in the Vera district of Las Lomas was bulldozed in January 2008 on the orders of a judge after the regional government revoked the couple’s building licence, claiming the house had been built illegally on rural land.

Although the ruling comes too late to save the Priors’ home, the verdict by the Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Court) means the case which led to the demolition is void and that, ironically, the Prior’s property is once again legal.

The judges heavily criticised Vera council, roundly condemning the local authority for failing to notify the Priors about the regional government’s decision to revoke the couple’s building licence in 2003.

The Priors have always maintained they were unaware of the Junta’s moves to challenge the legality of the building licence through the courts and that they only became aware of the regional government’s intentions in May 2006 - almost three years later.

Summing up, the Constitutional Court also slammed the judge who signed the demolition order, Jesús Rivera, for failing to recognise the importance of having the Priors present in court to defend themselves.

Judge Rivera had argued that the Priors were fully aware of the case against them, but the Constitutional judges disagreed, saying his decision was based on “personal opinions” and not facts.

The couple, who have been living in their garage without mains electricity or water for months, expressed satisfaction at the ruling. Mrs Prior said: “We’re glad that something has finally been decided because we’ve been waiting since May 2006.”

But Mrs Prior criticised the Junta’s housing delegate, Luis Caparrós, for saying the verdict did not overturn judge Rivera’s ruling over the illegality of the house.

She said: “We feel it is legal - we don’t see how we could have the only illegal house in La Loma district when we’re surrounded by other homes in the same position.”

The debate is now likely to centre on whether the Junta and Vera council are willing to reach an out-of-court settlement with the Priors. Failing that, officials will have to decide whether the regional government is prepared to drag the case through the courts once more until all legal avenues have been exhausted.

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