Public Law 2 (Administrative Law) Problem Question HelpWatch
Sharrowfield City Council is required by both government policy and the law to work collaboratively with the police in the city to tackle crime. In terms of combatting domestic violence, officers in Sharrowfield Police have the power to issue Domestic Violence Protection Notices to suspected perpetrators of domestic violence, and further apply to the courts for a Domestic Violence Protection Order to be issued to the suspected perpetrator. These Notices and Orders can be used to preclude contact between the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence and their victim, in part by keeping the perpetrator away from a particular address. But this can create practical difficulties in relation to dealing with suspected perpetrators of domestic violence whose alleged victims are also those disabled people they regularly care for and perhaps even live with. This particular problematic group are described as 'carer-offenders' in Sharrowfield City Council strategy and policy.
Policy officers for Sharrowfield City Council decided upon a strategy, whereby the Council would fund a small accommodation centre (known as the Rally Centre), with six beds, to temporarily house carer-offenders in the city who had been made subject to a Domestic Violence Protection Notice or Order by the police. Because the Council then knew that the carer-offenders would be contactable and resident in a certain place, they would be able to work speedily with local charities and offender management organisations to provide counselling to help the alleged perpetrators understand that they can take positive steps towards ensuring they did not demonstrate this offending behaviour in the future.
As well as using the Rally Centre as the base for this 'restorative practice', the City Council can also better work in an inter-agency manner with local health and social care agencies, to make sure that the disabled people concerned receive the right level of support and care while their regular carers are temporarily removed from access to their homes. As such, police in Sharrowfield feel more confident about issuing Domestic Violence Prevention Notices to suspected abusive carers. Policy officers for the City Council have reported that the project is working well, and the Rally Centre is regarded as a success, and 'good value for public money'.
But now funding for the Rally Centre may be removed. Sharrowfield City Council is having to implement serious cuts to its expenditure in order to meet central government targets for its budget reduction. A single proposal in relation to the closure of the Rally Centre has been published for consultation. This proposal is simply to close the centre to save on running costs of £220,000 per year.
Consultation has not been very specific or targeted, and no carer-offender users of the Rally Centre or disabled victims of domestic violence have been consulted directly. The consultation period is to last for just two weeks. Consultation documents were posted on the council website, and adverts were placed in local newspapers, but the few direct written responses from members of the public indicate that there is some support for the cost saving that would be realised by the closure of the Rally Centre.
An officer of the council, Sharon Blake, is appointed to make the final decision on the potential closure of the Rally Centre. She suggests that a public meeting would be useful. This public meeting comes only four days after the single proposal is publicised on the council website and in local newspapers, and is not well attended.
Some representatives from disability rights campaign groups and citizen crime prevention groups do attend. During a very heated meeting, Sharon Blake suggests the groups put their objections to the single proposal in writing, and send it to her after the meeting.
The groups do so, but Sharon Blake does not herself review the written submissions to the consultation from these groups. She relies on the opinion of her assistant, Gary Young, who, in an e-mail to Sharon, writes that "the written letters of protest over the single proposal to close the Rally Centre are very persuasive; but they ultimately cannot, on the basis of emotion alone, save the centre from closure on the basis of required cost savings".
Sharon Blake decides to go ahead with the proposal that has been published, and the Rally Centre is closed. Direct cost savings for the City Council are substantial and immediate, as planned.
Emma Valley is an organiser of the Sharrowfield branch of the group Protection for Disabled Victims of Crime (PDVC), and has approached you for advice on how PDVC might use judicial review to challenge the decision of Sharon Blake to go ahead with the proposal to close the Rally Centre. Emma can readily identify a number of disabled people living in Sharrowfield whose carers were helped to desist from committing acts of domestic abuse while they were temporarily resident in the Rally Centre whilst subject to a Domestic Violence Protection Notice or Order."
Advise Emma on the way that she, another individual or the PDVC could challenge Sharon's decision to go ahead with the proposal to close the Rally Centre, with reference to issues of standing, permission and remedies in relation to judicial review; as well as any applicable grounds for judicial review, including the public sector equality duty. You should support your points with case law and references to legislation and other legal sources where possible and relevant.