A High Court judge criticised Croydon Council after hearing how a middle-aged woman whose husband is severely-disabled spent more than three years sleeping on a sofa in a one-bedroom council flat.

Mrs Justice Lieven said the woman, who is now 60 and has a number of health problems, could not share a bed with her husband because of his disability and had been living under "extreme strain".

The judge said the couple's relationship had become "troubled" and at times "highly antagonistic".

But, she said, instead of finding more suitable accommodation, council bosses asked her to make a "highly draconian" order preventing the couple - who have been married for 40 years - from living together.

The judge has ordered the council to pay tens of thousands of pounds worth of legal aid bills run up by the couple on lawyers.

She said the council's conduct had been "reprehensible".

Lawyers representing the couple said they might bring damages claims against the council.

Detail of the case has emerged in a ruling published by Mrs Justice Lieven following a recent hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

She said the man and woman could not be identified in media reports, but has named Croydon Council as the local authority involved.

Mrs Justice Lieven said the man, now 59, had suffered a life-changing brain injury some years ago.

He had spent a long time in hospital, and lived at a care home, before returning to the flat in 2015.

The judge said the woman had then become his primary carer.

She said council staff had concerns about the care the man was receiving and there was some evidence that his wife had assaulted him.

Lawyers representing the council had asked Mrs Justice Lieven to make an order barring the man from "living in a property" with his wife.

They had withdrawn the application on the second day of a trial earlier this month after a change of heart by council bosses.

Mrs Justice Lieven said such an order would have been a "colossal interference" with the couple's human right to respect for private and family life, and would have been neither "necessary or appropriate".

She said the council had not considered whether there were "less intrusive means" by which the man could be "properly protected".

"The local authority have plainly failed to properly consider less intrusive means to mitigate the alleged risk," the judge said in her ruling.

"The couple live in a one bedroom flat and due to (the man's) disability (his wife) has been having to sleep on a sofa in the living room ever since (he) returned home in 2015.

"(She was) obviously under extreme strain living in these circumstances and being (her husband's) primary carer."

Mrs Justice Lieven said she had asked what steps had been taken to find the couple more suitable accommodation, and had been told that no "supported flats" were available.

She said she had been told that the couple "were simply on the local authority's waiting list" for a two-bedroom flat.

"It is obvious to me that before seeking a highly draconian order ... it was incumbent on the local authority to ensure that they had suitable accommodation," said the judge.

"That simply has not been done."

Council bosses had said the man was "vulnerable" and under the "undue influence" of his wife.

Barrister Francis Hoar, who represented the council, had told the judge that the man's views on whether he wanted to live with his wife had "fluctuated".

Mr Hoar said the man had, at times, been "quite clear" that he was "frightened".

Bosses had argued that the man was "plainly at risk" when he lived with his wife.

Barrister Peter Mant, who represented the man, had told the judge: "The local authority's conduct towards (the couple) has been reprehensible."

He said damages claims could be launched.

Barrister Alexis Hearden, who represented the man's wife, said she echoed what Mr Mant had said.

Lawyers said the couple were no longer at the flat.