A MOTHER and her five children have cost taxpayers more than £8,000 in hotel bills after being evicted from their Merseyside home for making neighbours' lives a misery.
Sharon Griffiths and her sons have taken up two £45-a-night double rooms at the Travelodge Hotel, in Haydock, for the past 13 weeks.
However, it has emerged that out of the £630 weekly hotel bill, Miss Griffiths, 34, pays just £14.84 herself.
Her family had been evicted from their home in the Moss Bank estate in St Helens after two of her sons were found guilty of anti-social behaviour.
One son Michael, 15, was given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) last December for abusing, spitting and swearing at nearby residents, as well as throwing eggs at other properties.
The family were later evicted by Helena Housing, which now runs most of the council housing in St Helens.
But Miss Griffiths immediately asked the council for help because she had become homeless, along with her four boys, aged 16, 15, 14 and 12, and only daughter, seven.
She was put in emergency accommodation and later challenged her eviction in court.
St Helens Council argued Miss Griffiths had made herself "intentionally homeless" because of her children's behavior and said it had no duty to rehouse her.
But a court has now ruled in favour of the family and the council is now seeking a new home for them.
In the meantime, they are provided with hotel accommodation, with St Helens only able to claim back £167.90 per week from the Government. The cost to the authority's council tax payers is £460 every week.
Retired construction worker Harry Owen, 64, who gave evidence in the ASBO hearing, said: "It absolutely astounds me, how much they are spending housing people who have made our lives hell.
"Michael Griffiths, and his younger brother Chris were out of control on the estate. There were endless problems for an entire year until they were finally evicted. They would stay out until all hours, sometimes until 6am, and we could never relax."
His wife Doreen, 64, added: "It was a total nightmare, and when we were asked to give evidence for the ASBO hearing, we didn't think twice, because of the misery they were causing us.
"It's an absolute disgrace that taxpayers' money is going towards putting them up in a hotel. They were asked to leave, because of their own misbehaviour, and now we are the ones who are paying for it."
Helena Housing brought the problem to the attention of Tony Blair last week.
A spokeswoman for Helena Housing said: "We'd rather they were living where they are than back on the estate. They were evicted because of the son's behaviour, but we're totally happy with our zero tolerance stance.
"We've done what we wanted to do and, once evicted, it is up to the council where they are rehoused."
Rob Young, chief executive of Helena Housing, added the number one priority was for other tenants to be able to live peacefully in their homes.
He said: "We have made it our priority to tackle any nuisance and anti-social behaviour.
"We are grateful for the support of our tenants who have helped us deal with this case and so make sure their estate stays a safe and pleasant place to live."
A spokeswoman for St Helens Council said they supported Helena Housing's decision to evict Miss Griffiths, but would stand by the court's decision.
She added: "Having been evicted, the council then deemed the family to be intentionally homeless. But this decision was overturned by the court.
"Whilst the council accepts the court's decision, it remains concerned that efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour may be compromised by its current responsibilities under homelessness legislation and the impact this will have on the wider community."
St Helens has been looking to secure permanent accommodation for the family but says it has proved difficult "due to their previous behaviour" and the shortage of suitable accommodation.
The spokeswoman added: "Bed and breakfast accommodation has been provided during this period as this has been the only accommodation available.
"A recent offer of accommodation has been made which has been accepted by the family and they will be moving to their new home shortly."
The family solicitor, Tony Fearnley, of Wigan-based Stephensons, yesterday said Miss Griffiths had met with the police and social services in an effort to deal with her failure to control her children.
"We all deplore anti-social behaviour. But my client has been shoved from pillar to post in the judicial system, as have her family," he said.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "In September, the Home Secretary announced the launch of a new scheme to work intensively with nuisance families which aims to provide a 'last chance' for families who have either been evicted or are close to eviction because of their behaviour.
"The scheme, which will run in 10 trailblazer areas, aims to bring about behaviour change among perpetrators through a range of tools, including residential schemes, outreach schemes, anger management, parenting programmes and life skills."
Mother now out of her mind with worry
SHARON GRIFFITHS last night claimed that since her 15-year-old son was issued an ASBO, pictured left, her family have become an easy target.
Mrs Griffiths claims the order has made Michael and the rest of her family notorious and says she now she fears for their safety.
She said: "Our family life has been turned upside down by this ASBO - we have become notorious and people are picking on us because of it.
"I am out of my mind with worry and fear for my children's safety because of the stigma attached to this order.
"Michael is the only one who has had a run in with the law, but we are all suffering for it.
"The Government should ensure greater protection for people who are subjected to ASBOs. People jumped on the bandwagon and gave false evidence to get us evicted. And there is no protection against false claims.
"I have always encouraged the authorities to take whatever action necessary against Michael when he steps out of line.
"But when you have an ASBO against your name then you are guilty until proven innocent, and that is not the way the law should work in this country.
"People who don't even know us have singled my family out for abuse because of this. And when we react, we are the ones who are punished and the other person gets away scot-free."
Mrs Griffiths said Michael was first served with a preliminary ASBO for a series of petty thefts. This resulted in a leaflet being delivered to neighbours naming and shaming the then 15-year-old.
Mr Griffiths added: "Everyone knows who Michael is now and a lot of people are looking out for him to make a mistake.
"I have been told we have to move into a new house, but I am afraid for my kids lives because we are now so well-known. "I feel trapped and we cannot live a normal life because of the pitfalls of the ASBO system."