Case number: CO/4113/2022
In the High Court of Justice
King’s Bench Division
8 February 2023
Clive Sheldon KC, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court
The King on the application of
Adur District Council
Notification of the Judge’s decision on the application for permission to apply for judicial review (CPR 54.11, 54.12)
Following consideration of the documents lodged by the Claimant and the Acknowledgement of Service filed by the Defendant
ORDER by Clive Sheldon KC, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court
- Application for anonymity is granted. There should be no publication of any details which might lead to the identification of the Claimant or the identification of her location or her current or former address.
- The application for permission to apply for judicial review is refused.
- Permission to amend the claim is granted.
- Permission to rely on the Reply is granted.
- No order for costs.
- I grant the application for anonymity. The Claimant is a survivor of domestic abuse, suffers from mental health issues, and there is an ongoing risk to her safety. The open justice principle is important but, on the facts of this case, must bow to the necessity of protecting the Claimant’s right to respect for her private and family life under Article 8 of the Convention, and there is no countervailing interest in disclosure.
- I grant permission for the Claimant to amend her claim. The amended claim was lodged one month after her initial claim, and updates the Court on a matter that relates to her banding situation, and the Defendant has not suffered any prejudice as a result.
- I also grant the Claimant permission to rely on a Reply, so as to bring the Court up to date, and in circumstances where the Defendant does not object.
- Nevertheless, I consider that the grounds of challenge made by the Claimant are not arguable, and permission to proceed by way of judicial review is refused. There is no application for costs by the Defendant, and so I make no order for costs.
- The application for judicial review concerns decisions taken by the Defendant local authority with respect to the provision of housing and/or accommodation for the Claimant. There is a lengthy history to this matter, and two previous judicial review claims have been brought.
- The core background was set out in the recent judgment of Margaret Obi, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court (DHCJ)in case number Case No: CO/160/2022, a claim brought by the Claimant which concerns the lawfulness of the Defendant’s housing allocation policy (compliance with the Equality Act 2010):
“12. The Claimant has a long-standing history of mental health illness including a history of suicidal ideation and attempts at suicide via various means. She has been prescribed medication for her mental health and is under the care of a mental health team. The Claimant is originally from the Defendant’s area and her family continues to live there. She is the tenant of a property in Brighton, let to her by Brighton & Hove Council. She fled that property in November 2020, following domestic abuse from her partner. She went to live with her mother in the Defendant’s area. She applied to the Defendant as homeless and made an application to be placed on the Defendant’s housing register for permanent accommodation.
- On 8 April 2021, the Defendant accepted the initial housing duty towards the Claimant under section 189B of the Housing Act 1996 (‘ the Act ‘). In September 2021, the Defendant accepted the main housing duty under section 193(2) of the Act . The Claimant, after her claim was lodged, remained in accommodation arranged by the Defendant until she left, on or around 1 August 2022, citing a fear of violence.”
7. Margaret Obi DHCJ allowed the Claimant’s claim and, as a result, the Defendant has been ordered to retake the decision as to the Claimant’s banding.
- From 10 November 2022, the Claimant has been provided with accommodation in Worthing. This is self-contained accommodation, the Claimant can have her dog with her there, and she can remain there for the foreseeable future. The Claimant does not regard that accommodation as suitable for her.
- In the present proceedings, the Claimant challenges the ongoing failure of the Defendant (a) to secure accommodation for her pursuant to section 193(2) of the Housing Act 1996 (“the 1996 Act”); (b) to consider a reciprocal arrangement with another local authority (Brighton & Hove Council) in respect of her housing; and (c) to prepare and maintain a housing needs assessment and personalised housing plan pursuant to section 189A of the 1996 Act; and (d) the Claimant also challenges the Defendant’s decision of 9 November 2022 to reduce her banding (as part of the Defendant’s allocation decision) to “D” because she is in housing related debt.
- The Claimant’s various grounds of challenge are unarguable, primarily for the reasons provided by the Defendant in their Summary Grounds.
(a) Suitability of Accommodation
- The Claimant does not consider that the accommodation provided to her in Worthing is suitable for her, and puts forward a number of concerns: problems with the next door neighbours, location is fairly close to the previous property where she was identified by a friend of her abusive ex-partner and is not close enough to her mother to easily access her support; and feels very temporary. The Defendant, on the other hand, contends that the accommodation is large enough for the Claimant, is affordable for her and is one where she can have her dog for support. It is self-contained and in an area which is close to her family and GP, noting that the Claimant is not accessing support from her mother at her mother’s property due to issues with a nephew who is staying there.
- The Administrative Court is not a suitable venue for determining questions of suitability, absent public law error. There is no obvious public law error identified.
- Further, in any event, the Claimant has an internal remedy available to her of seeking a review of the Worthing property’s suitability. She has not availed herself of this remedy, and she should do so before seeking relief from this Court: see Cramp v Hastings LBC  EWCA Civ 1005.
(b) Reciprocal arrangement
- The Claimant is the secure tenant of a property provided by Brighton & Hove Council. It is said that that local authority would consider a reciprocal move for the Claimant with a secure tenant of the Defendant (although this is disputed by the Defendant). The failure to consider a reciprocal move is said to be irrational, and if there is a policy of not entering into reciprocal arrangements this would breach the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.
- This ground of challenge is unarguable. There is no policy not to enter into reciprocal arrangements, and the Defendant has considered it but decided that it is not necessary, as they have accepted a housing duty to the Claimant. Further, the Defendant have stated that “if Brighton are aware of an Adur District Council tenant that wishes to move to Brighton property then of course this will be considered”. In the circumstances, there is no arguable breach of section 213 of the Housing Act 213 (duty to co-operate).
(c) Housing Needs Assessment and Personalised Housing Plan
- The Defendant has explained that it has at all times accepted that it is bound to maintain the Personalised Housing Plan (PHP) and update it from time to time, and has tried to do so. Every time the Claimant has moved accommodation, she has been invited to attend the Defendant’s offices to talk through the PHP and only sometimes has she accepted. The most recent update of the PHP took place on 13 December 2022, following the Claimant’s latest move to the property in Worthing.
- On its face, the PHP engages with the advice of Dr. Thomas. For instance, it makes express reference to the advice of Dr. Thomas that “stable, long term housing would undoubtedly improve [the Claimant’s] mental health stability to some extent”. An assessment for permanent, safe housing is implicit in the PHP.
(d) Banding Decision
18. The Claimant seeks to challenge the Defendant’s decision to demote her to Band D of its housing allocation system and to uphold that decision on review. Given that the Defendant must now comply with the order of Margaret Obi DHCJ to retake the banding decision, and the Claimant will have the opportunity to make full submissions as to what the appropriate banding will be (which will presumably include an opportunity to make representations about the housing and other debts which have been referred to, and relied upon, by the Defendant in making its banding decisions), this ground of claim is academic.