Press release: SIGNIFICANT VICTORY against Southwark Council.
“Further to a successful legal challenge by the Public Interest Law Unit (PILU) and Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL), it has become apparent that Southwark Council have been incorrectly applying the ‘space standard’ test for statutory overcrowding as contained in s.326 of the Housing Act 1985.
Had Southwark applied the law correctly, it would have been recognised that the family in question were living in statutorily overcrowded conditions, and that in accordance with their allocation scheme they should have been placed in Band 1 and given an additional ‘Priority Star’ to reflect that status.
The evidence provided by HASL and as a result of a Freedom of Information Request suggests that the error in fact forms part of a wider unlawful practice.
Since December 2017, HASL have come across five cases where households have reported to Southwark that they are overcrowded according to the space standard for the number of people in the property and the number of rooms, that in each of these cases Southwark has proceeded to measure the size of the rooms and that in only one of the cases has the household been placed in Band 1 on Southwark’s allocation scheme.
The Council’s response to a Freedom of Information request showed that since February 2018, 46 banding decision had been made which had involved assessing whether a household was statutorily overcrowded, all of these cases had been assessed with reference to the space standard set out in s326 Housing Act 1985, and all had been assessed solely with reference to floor area as opposed to the number of rooms. 13 of those cases had been found not to be statutorily overcrowded.
Southwark Council have now admitted that the test for statutory overcrowding had been incorrectly applied the case in question, and while the Council have been reviewing previous decisions made on this basis, it is unclear whether everybody affected will notified and awarded the additional priority that they are entitled to.
Helen Mowatt, solicitor from PILU said:
Southwark Council has formally adopted the measure of overcrowding contained in Part 10 of the Housing Act 1985 within its allocation scheme and is required to properly apply this when allocating social housing. A failure to do so is a breach of the Housing Act and amounts to an unlawful failure to follow a published policy.
Southwark have been erroneously applying the space standard contained in s326(3) Housing Act 1985, by assessing overcrowding solely with reference to floor area and not also with reference to the number of rooms, as required.
The error in our client’s case is material. Had Southwark correctly applied the space standard, his household would have been deemed statutorily overcrowded months ago, they would have been placed in Band 1 of the allocation scheme and awarded an additional priority star.
This was also not an isolated error on the part of the Council. The evidence we have obtained from HASL and as a result of our Freedom of Information Request shows that Southwark have been consistently misapplying the law in every case. It is therefore likely that many households have wrongly been assessed as not being statutorily overcrowded and placed in the incorrect housing Band.
We know that there may have been as many as 13 cases since February 2018 which must now be reviewed, but we are unclear as to how many households may have been affected before this date. We will be seeking assurances from the Council that they will review all relevant cases, but if anyone thinks they may have been affected, please contact HASL and/or seek legal advice.
Elizabeth Wyatt from HASL has said:
Overcrowded housing in the private rented sector, but also in Southwark’s own council housing, is one of the main problems we come across in our group and is one of the more invisible sides of the housing crisis. We know many families forced to live in single rooms, studio flats and one bed flats because of discrimination and extortionate rents in the private rented sector. We know first hand the devastating impact that overcrowded housing has on people’s lives particularly their mental and physical health. We have been raising the problem of overcrowding with Southwark council for years but the council have failed to engage and take meaningful action.
Southwark council should be supporting their residents to access their housing rights and the secure council homes they need, instead it took a legal challenge before the council would accept that it had been wrongly denying that our families were statutorily overcrowded. Together with PILU, we will be making sure that the council goes back to review all previous decisions and applies the law correctly for all future cases.
Southwark residents and all Londoners desperately need good quality, secure, 3, 4, 5 bed council homes in our communities. We welcome anyone struggling or worried about housing problems to get involved in our group to support each other and take collective action for good housing for everyone.” [ENDS]
Save Southall Town Hall campaign – victory – 20th July 2018.
Friday 20th July 2018 was a big day for our client and the Save Southall Town Hall campaign.
In the Royal Courts of Judge Martin McKenna ruled that the London Borough of Ealing had acted unlawfully in the way it sought to dispose of a community asset.
Judge Martin McKenna took under 40 minutes to summarise arguments presented by both sides and deliver his verdict.
He did NOT believe the arguments presented by Ealing Council or the scant evidence provided by them.
In agreeing with our submissions he stated that a sale cannot simply be conducted where the interests and the needs of the community are at stake, rather consideration must be had to whether to sell buildings for less than the highest price where, as in this case, the community are involved. The Ealing cabinet had failed in its legal duties to do this. He was also very critical of the equalities impact assessment that Ealing council and held that they had failed in their duties on this.
This decision is significant and it places councils on notice that they must have in mind working class communities and their community assets before rushing to sell to the highest bidder. It is certainly something that in future cases anti-austerity campaigners may find useful.
Make no mistake this ruling and important legal decision would not have been possible without the marvellous campaign waged by the people of Southall. In fighting the fire-sales that local authorities intend to make over the next period this decision will be an asset in countering those plans.
Judge Martin McKenna quashed Ealing Council Cabinet decision to sell Southall Town Hall.
Ealing Council can appeal against the decision within 21 days but have little grounds for doing so, as they presented little or no relevant evidence at the hearing. Their barrister was unable to respond to the Judge, as he had no one from Ealing Council to instruct him on the matter.
Helen Mowatt and Paul Heron, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Unit were instructed in this case.
Judicial Review in Scotland – 19th and 20th July 2018
What is the Undercover Policing Inquiry?
In March 2015, Theresa May announced a Public Inquiry into undercover policing. This announcement followed revelations that undercover political policing was systematically used from 1968 to date, to spy on political campaigners. Scandalously the undercover officers often used the name of dead children to create their false identities.
These undercover political police operations were part of of the ‘National Public Order Intelligence Unit’ (NPOIU) and/or the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Special Demonstration Squad’ (SDS). They deceived women into long-term intimate relationships and fathered children with them. They also befriended grieving families involved in seeking justice and have acted as agents provocateurs.
The undercover political police operations under scrutiny by the Inquiry are limited to those conducted in England and Wales. This is despite the fact that much evidence has come to light demonstrating that undercover political policing operated in Scotland.
For all activists who may have been spied on in Scotland, the nature and extent of the undercover political policing falls outside the Inquiry’s remit which is limited to England and Wales. There is no Scottish inquiry.
In September 2017, Edinburgh’s Court of Session the Public Interest Law Unit was granted permission on behalf of our client Tilly Gifford to proceed with a full Judicial Review – that is now due to take place on Thursday and Friday.
Tilly Gifford, an environmental justice campaigner and member of Plane Stupid, had been targeted by undercover officers in Scotland. In 2009, officers had attempted to recruit her as an informant. Referred to as an on-going “business arrangement”, Tilly was asked to betray her friends, beliefs and the communities in Scotland that she had been campaigning to protect. In the course of three meetings, police officers had indicated that they would give Tilly cash payments in exchange for information, and threatened her with prison should she fail to cooperate. Tilly recorded these exchanges and exposed the Police and their tactics in the media. The identities of these officers remain unknown, and it is unclear who had made the decision to target Tilly and on what basis.
As is the case for all activists who may have been spied on in Scotland, the answers to these questions fall outside the Inquiry’s remit which is limited to England and Wales. That is why this Judicial Review is so important.
The Court of session in Glasgow is being asked to consider whether the following decisions are lawful:
- Is it right for the UK government not to extend the UCPI to Scotland? Is it right that it is limited to just England and Wales? and
- Is it right for the Scottish government to fail to call its own public inquiry into undercover policing north of the border?
We submit that the UK government must extend the UCPI into Scotland, or the Scottish government must order its own public inquiry into how political policing operated north of the border.
It’s now known there were at least 18 UK undercover active during the 2005 G8 Summit at Gleneagles. We know notorious undercover Mark Kennedy was active in Scotland, including maintaining relationships with those he’d targeted. Carlo Neri a SDS undercover, came to family events of the Scottish woman he had deceived into a relationship.
We also suspect that undercover political policing occurred at:
- Faslane protests;
- the Pollock Free State;
- during the Miners strike;
- the poll tax movement;and
- the Timex dispute.
This list is in no way exhaustive.
The full hearing is due to be heard on the 19-20th July 2018.
Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance – 8th July 2018
The Public Interest Law Unit is bringing a case against the UK and Scottish government on behalf of our client Tilly Gifford. The Judicial Review action is due to take place on the 19th and 20th July 2018 at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Working closely with Scottish lawyers we seek to obtain judgment that quashes the decison by the UK government for its failure to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) north of the border; and/or the Scottish government failure to call its own inquiry into undercover political policing.
On the back of that we supported the conference to support the Judicial review challenge. However, we see that the organising of the Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (SCOPS) as a major break through in organising activists through the movement around the issue of police surveillance.
SCOPS has its first committee meeting – if you live north of the border get involved – e-mail at email@example.com
Legal Fight to Stop an Undercover Policing Inquiry Whitewash – 5th July 2018
The Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) is at a crossroads – these are the words of Sir John Mitting – the Chairman of the Inquiry. On one level he is right, however as many Core Participants to the UCPI note, this is something he has caused.
As a result a number of Core Participants have come together to launch a Judicial Review. They need to raise £5,000 to cover the initial stages of the application. The challenge is centrally against the refusal to appoint a diverse panel to look at the issues of systematic institutionalised racism and sexism, and the invasion of human rights particularly of working class campaigners for social justice. Can you help?
Core Participants want to properly participate in this Inquiry. They want it to succeed. They want it to be transparent and fair. They feel that there is no option but to issue a legal challenge now.
Please support the financial appeal – the crowd justice page is here
An article about the issues involved can be found in the the Guardian from Rob Evans.
The challenge is supported by lawyers at Public Interest Law Unit and is being brought by Birnberg Peirce solicitors.
The launch of the PILU project defending the rights of EEA homeless people – 2nd July 2018
Following the successful case of Gureckis the Public Interest Law Unit has launched a free telephone advice and referral line.
The phone line will be open Monday-Friday (10am-4pm). We are open for direct and second-tier advice as well as referrals. Attached ready-to-print are flyers in English and Polish (other languages to follow). Referrals can also be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
We will work with all EEA nationals affected by homelessness or at risk – this means we can work with those vulnerably housed, moving from place to place as well as those sleeping rough.
The remit of our work focuses on challenging unlawful public bodies’ decisions, actions or policies in a range of arrears – may it be access to Welfare Benefits, Healthcare or Housing. We are also aware of continued enforcement and discrimination against EEA nationals, which we will challenge wherever possible.
Please do not hesitate to call or email us to discuss any recurrent issues you encounter in your work or potential referrals.
Aims and Objectives
The aim of the project is to ensure homeless people from the European Economic Area (EEA):
- receive access to specialist legal representation,
- learn, defend and enforce their rights.
The Public Interest Law Unit will take a strategic litigation approach to challenging central government, local councils and the Greater London Authority’s policies and practice where those are judged to infringe homeless people’s rights. Learnings will also be shared to support front line organisations and ensure the impact of test cases is promoted and to maximise the impact of the project across the sector.
The project will benefit EEA nationals who are homeless (sleeping rough, sofa surfing, vulnerably housed) or at risk of homelessness as well as those supporting them through frontline advice and casework.
- Free Legal Advice sessions (bi-weekly, locations TBC)
- Problem identifier sessions with frontline organisations
- Roundtable discussions
- ‘Know your Right’ factsheet for homeless people and advisors
- Training on the opportunities and limitations of Public Law as a tool for defending the rights of homeless people.
Below is a short (and non-exhaustive) list of issues that we have an interest in:
- Routes to settlement during Brexit transition (especially for those who might lack the necessary documents)
- Criminalisation of rough sleepers and precarious workers
- Discriminatory treatment of homeless people
- Implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.
If in doubt give us a call – 07856539582
the launch of the Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (SCOPS) – 23rd June 2018
Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Unit attended the launch of SCOPS yesterday.
The day was a great success with speakers from a whole range of different traditions uniting together to launch a united campaign for a public inquiry into undercover political policing in Scotland.
It is becoming increasingly clear that many undercover officers – part of the SDS and the NPOIU – were involved in spying on Scottish social justice campaigners. Those campaigners encompass the whole spectrum of progressive activists from trade unionists, socialists, environmental campaigners, and community activists.
The Conference kicked off with speeches from Neil Findlay MSP who has been in the forefront of raising the cases of blacklisted workers. Eveline Lubbers from the Undercover Research Group spoke in broad terms about the work she does in researching and uncovering police spies. Finally Tilly Gifford a social justice campaigner – explained her reasons for bringing a judicial review against the UK and Scottish governments for failing to organise a public inquiry into undercover political policing north of the border. ‘Andrea’ from Police Spies Out of Lives spoke powerfully about how she was deceived into a long term relationship with an undercover police officer who used her to legitimise his spying on socialist activists she campaigned with.
The afternoon session heard from a range of speakers including Pat Egan from the National Union of Mineworkers. He spoke about the recent grant of a judicial inquiry into policing during the miners strike 1984-85. Dave Semple from the PCS (civil service union) spoke about interference by the security services in his union in the 1980’s, and the ongoing battles against the bosses today. Paul McGloughlin spoke from the Miscarriages of Justice Orgnisation (MOJO) about their support from the public inquiry being extended to Scotland.
Finally, the conference agreed to launch the Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (SCOPS) with a first meeting in mid-July. If you are interested in getting involved contact email@example.com
Scotland, Surveillance and Spycops Conference – 17th June 2018
In September 2017, Edinburgh’s Court of Session agreed to grant permission for a full Judicial Review hearing to take place. The case brought by the Public Interest Law Unit on behalf of Tilly Gifford, a social justice activist, is important. The full hearing is due to be heard on the 19-20th July 2018.
However, notwithstanding the legal case, we must build a campaign to force the UK government and the Scottish government to concede to a proper inquiry. Truth and justice are demanded by trade unionists, environmentalists, women activists, blacklisted workers, and social justice campaigners.
A conference is to take place on 23 June 2018, to organise the campaign, expose political policing in Scotland and inform people of the latest developments in the Judicial Review and the Undercover Policing Inquiry
Time: 11am to 5pm
Venue: Scottish TUC – 333 Woodlands Rd, Glasgow G3 6NG
For more information about the conference please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Downloadable leaflet Haldane_SpyCop_A5_1
Fernando Gonzalez Llort finally receives visa for entry clearance to Britain* – 7th June 2018
After a long delay and a brilliant response by Members of Parliament, Fernando Gonzalez Llort has finally received his visa for entry clearance to Britain. He is now arriving on 13th June to speak to MPs, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign AGM, the RMT Garden Party, UNISON National Delegate Conference and trade unionists across the country.
Fernando made his visa application on 16th April 2018 but a month later he was told that his application needed ‘additional processing’. Three years ago, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, two other members of the Miami Five, had their visas refused on three occasions before a lengthy legal challenge and far reaching campaign finally secured their entry.
This time we had serious concerns as the wait went on for Fernando’s visa and there was no update from the Home Office. In just the past three days over 20 Members of Parliament contacted the Home Office and the FCO raising these concerns. This rapid response illustrates the breadth of support there is in parliament for the Five and for Fernando’s visit next week.
Solicitors then issued a pre action protocol letter for judicial review to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP making it clear that further delay would be deemed as ‘a clear violation of the Article 10 Rights of MPs to receive and impart information‘ which was the basis of the legal victory in November 2015.
Paul Heron, solicitor said “We are delighted that we could support Fernando in securing a visa to visit colleagues and MPs in the coming weeks. It is just a shame that the UKVI had thrown this historic visit into jeopardy by looking to refuse access to the UK”.
Once again we have been forced to take action to secure a visa for a Cuban visitor to the UK. We would urge the Government to do all it can to facilitate exchange, trade and understanding between UK and Cuba at a time when the Trump administration seems intent on reverting back to a ‘Cold war’ failed policy of Blockade and intervention.
We hope everyone will take the opportunity to come to the events to hear from Fernando about his experiences as a newly elected member of the Cuban National Assembly
*from the Cuba Solidarity campaign statement