R. v Spelthorne BC [2020] EWHC 2610 (Admin); [2020] 7 WLUK 175

Published on 10/11/2020

The Applicant in judicial review proceedings applied for the Respondent local authority to provide him with accommodation pending enquiries as to whether he was homeless or in priority need of accommodation. 

Where there was an application for a mandatory interim injunction against a local authority for the provision of accommodation, an applicant had to show that there was a strong prima facie case that the refusal to provide accommodation was unlawful, De Falco v Crawley BC [1980] Q.B. 460, [1979] 12 WLUK 96 applied. 

In the Defendant’s grounds of resistance the Defendant stated that in all the circumstances, the Defendant did not have reason to believe that the Applicant was homeless at the time of the application and the Applicant was not in priority need. It was said that the housing officer applied the correct test by assessing if the claimant would be significantly more vulnerable than an average person applying the comparative test in Hotak.

Particular reference was made by both sides to a letter from the Applicant’s GP. The Applicant had mental health issues for which he was being treated and took medication for, and for which he was under regular review. The Defendant’s case was that this in and of itself did not make him in priority need, as per the test in Hotak, and there was no reason to believe that this diagnosis would render him significantly more vulnerable.

The Applicant’s submissions were that, whether it is a strong prima facie case or a seriously arguable case, the threshold, the low hurdle of reason to believe, was crossed in this case and that the Defendant is accordingly in breach of statutory duty. The starting point is the statutory test for priority need and it is said that there is reason to believe that the Applicant is in priority need and that he is significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person.

Justice Freedman considered that “the Defendant was entitled, in my judgment, to form a view that there was no reason to believe that he would be a priority need and that he was not significantly more vulnerable than any other homeless person. The Applicant does have a mental health problem but it is one that he is able to control with medication. He has been able, during the period from February 2020 onwards, to take his medication and control his illness. There is nothing in the language of the doctor which indicates that he is significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person rendered homeless.

In addition, the forward-looking nature of the requirement was not persuasive in that the Applicant had given the Defendant inconsistent accounts and by his own case, his situation had worsened and he had continued to maintain his medication during the proceeding 6 months. The Defendant was right to be cautious about the evidence presented to them by the Applicant.

The learned Judge also considered the impact of the current pandemic on rough sleepers and the requirement to provide accommodation but the Applicant never claimed to be a rough sleeper.