Northern Ireland

Attorney General John Larkin at Belfast land tribunal

John Larkin
Image caption Attorney General John Larkin said he was there to give an independent human rights perspective

Attorney General John Larkin has appeared at a land tribunal in Belfast.

He was there to argue on behalf of a man who had his home taken from him by compulsory purchase, but is still paying a loan on the property.

Mr Larkin said he would give an independent human rights perspective on the case.

The land tribunal heard evidence in relation to a test case brought by Joel Kerr, 30, who bought a home in the Village area of south Belfast in 2007.

He paid £150,000 for it, but when the area was chosen for redevelopment, his home was the subject of a compulsory purchase by the housing executive in 2010.

Under the rules, he got the then market value which was a lot less than he had paid for it three years before.

The tribunal heard this had left him with no home and £50,000 of debt which he is still paying off. He is currently repaying £600 a month, and has had to rent a room elsewhere.

Part of Mr Larkin's role as attorney general is to represent the public interest, and he appeared in front of the tribunal to support Mr Kerr's case because, he said, under European human rights law the compulsory purchase of the house had placed Mr Kerr under an excessive burden as he has been forced to pay out money and gets nothing in return.

As a result, he said, Mr Kerr should get full compensation to the full value of what he paid for the house not just the market value at the time it was taken off him.

A barrister representing Stormont's Department of Social Development and the Department of Finance and Personnel, Tony McGleenan QC, said that on average the current system is fair.

He said that out of a total of 580 houses subject to compulsory purchase in the village, 54 belonged to landlords in negative equity and only a handful of owner occupiers have lost out.

The president of the tribunal Sir Patrick Coghlin said this was an extremely interesting case, not an easy one, but the matter he said needed to be cleared up.

He hopes to report his findings early in the new year.

More on this story

Around the BBC