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Homeless man denied accommodation wins legal battle against council

Council says it will 'carefully review implications of the case'

23 June, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

A homeless man who was denied accommodation by Islington council has won a legal case against the Town Hall.

Christopher Mitchell brought a Judicial Review claim against the council challenging its decision not to provide him with accommodation last year after he became homeless.

A high court judge has now ruled in favour of Mr Mitchell’s application saying that council officers had failed to inform him that he would not be receiving assistance after a set period of time – as it was their legal duty to do.

Mr Mitchell was represented by Shabnam Shekarian, Solicitor of Hodge Jones & Allen, and Toby Vanhegan of 4-5 Grays Inn Square.

Ms Shekarian said: “An authority has a duty of care to its community and, while the Borough of Islington satisfied some of their requirements, they failed to properly inform Mr Mitchell that they would no longer provide him with the essential accommodation that he was duly in need of.

“This case is really important, as it shines a light on the importance of the legislation we have in place to protect our community, and how we communicate that to people, particularly when making decisions that will have a huge impact on that person’s quality of life.”

Mr Vanhegan said: “Finally, some good news for homeless people, which is especially welcome at this time when the homeless are particularly at risk because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Judge James Strachan QC, who made the ruling on June 11, said: “In my judgment, the letter from the Defendant to the Claimant dated 5 October 2019 did not provide the type of notification set out in subsection (1ZA)(b).

“It did notify the Claimant that the Defendant had decided that he is not in priority need and gave reasons for that decision. It also notified him of a right to request a review. It therefore satisfied the requirements of section 184(3), (5) and (6) of the 1996 Act.

“But it did not comply with the notification requirement set out in section 188(1ZA)(b) by failing to inform the applicant of a decision that when the authority’s section 189B(2) duty comes to end, the local authority would not owe him a duty to provide him with accommodation under section 190 or section 193 of the 1996 Act.”

Mr Mitchell initially approached Islington in early 2019 as homeless and the interim accommodation duty under section 188 was engaged at that point.

Currently local authorities have duty to take reasonable steps to help a homeless applicant secure suitable accommodation for at least 6 months.

“Relief duty” lasts for a minimum of 56 days, and will end either automatically after 56 days from when it was accepted, or when the local authority serves a notice to end it.

But this ruling found that, while the council did notify him that he was not in priority need and of his right to request a review, it failed to inform him that the local authority would not owe him a duty to provide him with accommodation after the 56 days.

An Town Hall spokesman said: “Homelessness is a major priority for Islington council, and we will be carefully reviewing the implications of this case.

“Islington Council has been working extremely hard during the pandemic, to ensure that no homeless people have been left on the streets. This has meant providing safe accommodation and support for almost 300 single homeless people, working alongside some brilliant local charities in the borough.”

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