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Miles & Partners expose ‘shameful’ London authorities

In a judgment, which we hope will benefit anyone caught in a dispute between housing authorities, Mr Justice Cobb condemned the ‘shameful’ behaviour of the two London authorities in the case of R (AM) v London Borough of Havering and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets [2015] EWHC 1004 (Admin).

The High Court judge allowed the claim for judicial review, which Lou Crisfield sought on behalf of our client (AM) when he was made street homeless with his young family while the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and London Borough of Havering bickered over responsibilities.

The family made its first housing application to Tower Hamlets Council in 2012 but were found to be intentionally homeless.

The family made a further application to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets after the birth of their second child. The Council provided temporary accommodation in Havering due to a shortage of suitable housing in Tower Hamlets but then again deemed the family intentionally homeless.

While seeking to terminate the family’s temporary accommodation, Tower Hamlets referred the case to its own social services department because the older child was suffering seizures and the mother was experiencing post natal mental health problems.

Social services requested that the temporary accommodation continue until an assessment of need could be completed but Tower Hamlets housing department refused the request.

Social services continued with the assessment until the council’s lawyers realised that the family were out of their area, a day before the temporary accommodation was due to end.

Tower Hamlets told the family to apply to Havering for social services assistance. Havering provided the family with emergency accommodation for a weekend but denied further responsibility for family and referred them to Tower Hamlets.

Shunted from “pillar to post”, AM, his wife, their two-year old and 12-week old baby were forcibly evicted from their temporary accommodation and made street homeless on the 11 July 2014.

Representing AM, Lou Crisfield instructed Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers and prepared a claim for judicial review on his behalf. On the 29 July 2014 the court made an order requiring that Havering accommodate the family until the claim was heard.

Allowing the claim, Mr Justice Cobb declared that Tower Hamlets had failed in its statutory duty to make a lawful referral to Havering and failed to secure accommodation for the family pending an assessment of the children’s needs. He also quashed as unlawful the London Borough of Havering’s refusal to assess the needs of the children.

The judge castigated both London boroughs stating that “the strategy which each authority adopted … to avoid responsibility for AM and his family was shameful”.

While acknowledging that a shortage of housing stock is making it increasingly difficult for some local authorities, especially in London, to provide accommodation in their own areas, he referred to the many calls for co-operation between local authorities to protect the vulnerable, which appear to have fallen “on deaf ears”.

Everyone at Miles & Partners is delighted that the case has garnered such a huge amount of press interest which might finally encourage local authorities to heed those calls and put the interests of our clients above disputes over the financial burden of doing so.

And we’re especially proud of Lou who has been hailed as a real hero by one legal website for taking action while the local authorities squabbled between themselves.

If you wish to speak to us about any of the issues referred to in this article or would like to speak to a Miles & Partners specialist housing lawyer on any other issues please contact us on 020 7426 0400 or email

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

Lou Crisfield, Miles & Partners Solicitors, London