High Court rules Islington Council ‘failed to notify’ homeless man in legal battle

Shabnam Shekarian, solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen. Picture: Steve Bainbridge

Shabnam Shekarian, solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen. Picture: Steve Bainbridge - Credit: Archant

A High Court judge has ruled that Islington Council did not properly notify a homeless man when terminating his temporary accommodation.

On October 5 last year, the authority told Christopher Mitchell that it believed he did not have “a priority need” for housing assistance.

However, Deputy Judge of the High Court of Justice James Strachan found Islington Council failed to inform him in the letter that it was not obliged to help him find accommodation after 56 days.

That time limit is set by the law around homelessness relief duty, which states housing authorities must “take reasonable steps” to help homeless people find somewhere to live for the next six months.

This help could be provision of a rent deposit or debt advice.

READ MORE: Islington Council will provide temporary accommodation where rough sleepers can self-isolate during pandemicMr Mitchell, who is 30 years old and has a number of medical issues, was evicted from temporary accommodation on October 14 and had been living with his brother since.

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Deputy Judge Strachan said: “I do not consider the need to comply with the requirements of subsection (1ZA)(b) (notification of the end to relief duty in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017) in the way set out above can be characterised as mere unnecessary slavish adherence to the statutory provisions.

“To contrary, they ensure that requisite notice is provided to an applicant which should assist in preventing potential prejudice to an applicant occurring.”

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However, he did qualify the statement by saying in this case it was “not clear” if the help Mr Mitchell wanted from Islington Council would be “appropriate or necessary”.

Mr Mitchell was represented by Shabnam Shekarian, solicitor of Hodge Jones and Allen, and Toby Vanhegan of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.

“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,” said Ms Shekarian.

READ MORE: Emergency hotel for homeless people affected by coronavirus to open in King’s CrossMr Vanhegan added: “Finally, some good news for homeless persons, which is especially welcome at this time when the homeless are particularly at risk because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

An Islington Council spokesperson 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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