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Not interesting enough


McKenzie, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2009] EWHC 1097 (Admin) was a Judicial Review initially brought on grounds that the local authority refused to provide the claimant with temporary accommodation following her notification by the hostel she was living in that she would not be able to remain once her baby was born. In fact she was served notice to quit for three months after her due date. The hostel accomodation meant sharing a bathroom with another, male, resident.

The claimant applied to the LA as homeless and was told she was not homeless. She then brought judicial review proceedings on the basis that it was never reasonable, except in exceptional circumstances, for a pregnant woman in her third trimester to continue to occupy accommodation where any of the facilities were shared with a male who was not a member of her family, so she was homeless under s.175(3).

After issue but before hearing, the claimant had been housed by the LA, at about the time of the birth of her baby. The claim was therefore academic for the claimant, but she wished to pursue the claim on principle, for guidance, on the basis that

it is in the public interest to obtain the court’s guidance as to how local authorities should approach homeless applications by pregnant women by inviting the court to answer seven questions and to make nine declarations. At the core of the application is the contention that it is never reasonable (except in exceptional circumstances) for a pregnant woman in her third trimester (or even before) to continue to occupy accommodation where any of the facilities (bathroom, lavatory or kitchen) are shared with persons of the male sex who are not members of her family, with the result that she satisfies the requirement for homelessness in section 175(3) and the section 188(1) duty to provide interim accommodation is triggered, even though she as yet has no baby.

The Court found that Claimant must establish that two conditions are satisfied, the first being that a large number of similar cases exist or are anticipated and the second that her claim involves the resolution of a discrete issue which does not require detailed consideration of the facts, R (ex parte Zoolife International Ltd. v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2007] EWHC 2995 (Admin) applied.

In this case, the Claimant had adduced no evidence on the first condition, merely asserting that a large number of similar cases existed.

On the second condition, the issues would either be fact sensitive or, as put by the claimant, require the Court to substitute its view for the words of s.175.

The Court therefore declined to decide the academic points raised.

There is a stern lesson there for anyone who casually thinks their JR application has merit in itself, regardless of merit to the client. If claiming broader point of public interest, you will need significant evidence on the scope of that interest, and put the questions to be determined very, very carefully.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

1 Comment

  1. The.Dark.One

    Another waste of public money


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