Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

R (Plant) -v- Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council

R (Plant) -v- Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council

This was a case where Community Law Partnership represented Mr Plant.  The challenge to the decision to take eviction action against his unauthorised encampment was unsuccessful.

Here is the report on the case from Lime Legal:-

Mr Plant, the claimant (“C”), brought a claim for judicial review against the first Defendants, Somerset County Council (“SCC”) and Taunton Deane Borough Council (“TDBC”). C is a 72 year old man who is registered disabled and suffers from a variety of medical problems including tinnitus, hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound), heightened sensitivity to smells, chronic fatigue syndrome and glaucoma.  He has Asperger’s syndrome resulting in impairment of social function, social interaction and flexibility of thought.  C contended that he needed a quiet, undisturbed home environment. His medical problems are becoming progressively severe.

In December 2012, without permission, he moved onto land owned by SCC. In the past he had been offered a property by South Somerset District Council but he considered that property to be unsuitable.

On 16 January 2013 SCC issued a notice to vacate the land by 21 January 2013.  C applied to TDBC to join the Housing waiting list in which he described his medical condition and his needs. On 7 July 2013 SCC issued proceedings for trespass (this claim was adjourned on a number of occasions by agreement and remained stayed pending the conclusion of C’s claim for judicial review).

In August 2013 C went to TDBC’s Housing Options department and explained he was about to become homeless because of SCC’s claim for possession. He was offered interim accommodation pursuant to s.188(1) Housing Act 1996 but C preferred to stay where he was. In October 2013 TDBC accepted C was unintentionally homeless, eligible for housing assistance and in priority need.

On 1 January 2014 C issued a judicial review claim against SCC and TDBC. He sought an order quashing SCC’s decision to seek possession of the land on which he was living, a declaration that it would not be lawful for SCC to seek or enforce a possession order until TDBC provided him with suitable alternative accommodation pursuant to its duty under Part VII Housing Act 1996 and a mandatory order requiring TDBC to provide him with suitable alternative accommodation.

Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb concluded that judicial review should be a last resort and that “alternative remedies must be considered and normally exhausted if they would be adequate to resolve the complaint.” It was undesirable to have “parallel proceedings” but the High Court’s jurisdiction is not ousted by the existence of an alternative remedy.  She found that in the particular circumstances of this case it would be “unnecessarily duplicative of court time and resources” to remit the case to the County Court but emphasised that her decision should not encourage anyone in a similar position to follow the same approach that C had taken.

Her Ladyship concluded that SCC’s action in seeking possession of the land occupied by C as a trespasser was proportionate and not in breach of its public law duties or C’s Convention rights under Article 8.  The effect of TDBC accepting and discharging its housing duty towards C made a fundamental difference to the proportionality arguments. She also determined that C’s subsidiary submissions relying on Equality Act 2010 did not persuade her, given the discharge of TDBC’s housing duty and the proposed use of the land to provide temporary accommodation for travellers.  Accordingly, C’s claim for judicial review was dismissed.

To see a copy of the Judgment please follow the link:-