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Rumours of gatekeeping

By J

News reaches us here at NL of a decision of the High Court (Birmingham District Registry) by the name of Mehari, Kelly and JI v Birmingham City Council (9 and 10 November 2009) given by Hickenbottom J. Details are sketchy and, as ever, we’d be grateful for any further information.

As we understand it, persons who apply for assistance to BCC are asked to complete a form relating to their reasons for leaving their previous accomodation. Unless BCC are satisfied that the person is at risk of harm in that accomodation, they don’t provide interim accomodation (i.e. they expect the applicant to go back to the previous accomodation).

His Lordship found that additional “risk of harm” aspect to be unlawful and declared that Birmingham City Council were “imposing an unlawful extra-statutory hurdle” to persons seeking to make an application for housing assistance under Part 7.

I know that  some of BCC legal and housing are readers of this blog. I presume that CLP were involved with this for the applicants… anything any of you would care to share with the rest of us? :-)

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.


  1. Marisa Cohen

    My pupil supervisor, Zia Nabi, appeared for the Claimants in Mehari & Kelly v Birmingham CC (heard 9 and 10 November 2009) which involved two judicial reviews alleging that Birmingham City Council were systemically failing to comply with their duty to provide interim accommodation under section 188 HA 1996 and instead considering whether the persons seeking assistance were entitled to “emergency accommodation”.
    BCC admitted that there had been errors but said that these were down to individual officer error.
    Higginbottom J found that the relevant officers were only following the general practice and procedure of the Council and that it was unfair to seek to blame them. The emergency accommodation request forms neither referred to section 188 nor the criteria of that statutory provision and indicated that once the initial interview was over the applicant was to be “sent home” unless he would be at risk of harm there.
    There was a systematic failure on the part of Birmingham City Council to comply with its duties under section 188. An authority could not defeat the prompt engagement of section 188 by introducing filters or delays; for example, by making non statutory enquiries or by pursuing courses outside the statutory scheme.

    • NL

      Thank you, Marisa. That is very helpful. Interesting, although by the sound of the facts, unsurprising.

  2. Rosaleen Kilbane

    This was Mike McIlvaney’s case. BCC had asked for an early transcript (presumably as a training aid) so we had hoped to be able to forward it but no sign of it yet.


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