Julia Mulloy, the head of Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA), is under mounting pressure to explain why she has not taken steps to evict or rehouse the tenant, prompting the family of academic Dr Eamonn O’Neill to flee their home. Now, SNP MSP Christine Grahame intends to set up a probe to determine whether other cases have been “similarly mishandled.”
The Selkirk-based charity has come under fire for the way it has handled complaints by Dr O’Neill, whose family have been subjected to abusive behaviour for years by the tenant who lives at a neighbouring address.
The University of Strathclyde lecturer and award-winning journalist has had additional security measures installed at his Innerleithen home but, after the tenant returned to the property following his release from prison, Dr O’Neill, his wife, and twin four-year-old sons have been staying in hotel accommodation or with friends.
In September 2011, the tenant pled guilty at Peebles Sheriff Court to behaving in a threatening and abusive manner at the address, situated below the O’Neill residence. He was served with a criminal anti-social behaviour order (Crasbo) excluding him from the flat for 12 months, and instructed not to contact Dr O’Neill or his family in any way. In court, the tenant’s defence agent revealed his client had “surrendered his tenancy” yet it has remained live.
Dr O’Neill is now preparing to raise a judicial review in the Court of Session seeking an interdict and damages against the association. After what she described as the “appalling and frightening circumstances” endured by the family, Ms Grahame has written to Ms Mulloy.
She states: “My constituents have followed the law to the letter for years, completing logs of incidents and you are well aware of police interventions throughout this time.”
Criticising SBHA’s “complacent and wholly inappropriate response” to date, she adds: “I have therefore come to the view that you should consider your position as chief executive of SBHA.
“The very best interpretation one can put on your inaction is gross incompetence. I am also pursuing a means by which an independent inquiry can be put in hand for this case.”
Asked if Ms Mulloy was prepared to step down, a spokeswoman for SBHA said: “Legal requirements mean that we cannot disclose all the relevant information publicly. But we would have been happy to meet with Ms Grahame on a privileged basis and we will be inviting her to meet with us during the coming week. The well-being of all our residents is of the highest priority to SBHA, and in this complex case we will continue seek a resolution.”
Last night, Dr O’Neill said: “I add my voice to the growing number of people calling for Ms Mulloy to step down pending an inquiry.”