High Court dismisses Botton villagers’ human rights claims

The High Court
The High Court

The High Court will not intervene in the ongoing dispute over proposed changes to the way Botton Village operates.

Three residents from the village had claimed that planned adaptations to current living arrangements amount to a breach of the residents’ rights under Article 8(1) European Convention on Human Rights.

Traditionally, learning disabled residents have lived alongside volunteer co-workers and their families at Botton, but Camphill Village Trust, the charity which runs the village, is proposing to end the long-standing shared-living arrangement and wants to make all volunteer workers paid employees.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Knowles rejected the challenge for a second time having already dismissed a claim for Judicial Review on March 27, ruling that it was not arguable that there had been a breach of the residents’ human rights.

He said: “The claimants who have learning difficulties deserve every respect. I have no reason to doubt what they feel they gain from these co-worker relationships. I readily acknowledge these things are important.

“I have no reason to view the co-workers or the charity with anything other than respect.”

A spokesperson for Camphill Village Trust said that the charity welcomed the judge’s findings that they had no case to answer.

“We have always believed that the changes we plan to make at Botton Village are necessary and justified,” he added.

“They are a legitimate response to the increasingly rigorous regulatory and legal duties applying to organisations providing care and support.

“The changes need not, however, diminish the life experiences of anyone living at Botton Village.”

The spokesperson went on to say that although pleased by the judge’s findings, the charity is concerned that some of the people that they support felt strongly enough to go to court.

He continued: “We will be looking closely at how we can ensure those we support and their families, including both those for and against the proposed changes, can play a more direct role in shaping life at Botton Village.”

A spokesperson for the learning disabled claimants said that they were “very disappointed” by the decision in the High Court, but added that they are confident it is only a temporary set-back in the midst of “growing political and personal support”.

She added: “It is a great pity that our community has had to endure months of stress and uncertainty as we have fought to preserve the ideal of a non-segregational way of living which, we feel, Camphill Village Trust is determined to discard.

“We believe they have the right to a family life like any other citizen and will continue to campaign and appeal this decision and fight the apartheid being artificially imposed upon us.

“CVT’s stated reasons for making the changes seem to alter regularly. They have stated it is because of an increasingly rigorous regulatory and legal climate surrounding looking after the learning disabled – whereas previously it was because of the changed nature of the relationship between the co-workers and the charity.

“This was a change CVT engineered by altering working practices on the ground so as to create a hierarchical management structure which is contrary to its own prescribed ethos.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the claimants welcomed CVT’s stated commitment to ensuring that all those at Botton – including those members of the community who have battled hard for so long against the new regime – will have a closer role in shaping future life at Botton.

She added: “Nevertheless we find it unlikely as it was previously volunteered by CVT in early December 2015 however nothing has happened over at least five months”.

A separate legal case concerning Botton Village before the Chancery Division of the High Court was currently unaffected by today’s decision.