Violent assault victim’s fight against police station closures reaches the High Court
A legal challenge to the Mayor of London’s plans to close over half the police stations across the capital is heading for the High Court.
Assault victim Paul Kohler is challenging the move to shut 37 of the current 73 London stations, arguing that the original public consultation and consequent decision were legally flawed and unlawful.
The 59-year-old university lecturer believes he only survived the 2014 attack because police officers were able to get to his house from the local station in Wimbledon – one of the proposed closures – within eight minutes of the 999 call made by his daughter.
On Wednesday afternoon (June 6), Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis are due to hear a judicial review action in London which has so far prevented the sale of the Metropolitan Police Service’s properties.
Mr Kohler’s lawyers Leigh Day will argue that the original public consultation and consequent decision were legally flawed and unlawful as the Mayor did not give proper consideration to the responses.
They say the consultation failed both to reveal the criteria on which he made his decision and provided insufficient information to enable Londoners to properly respond.
Mr Kohler was the victim of a violent attack in his home in 2014. He was left “unrecognisable” after suffering a fractured eye socket, broken nose and severe internal bleeding in the assault, and needed facial reconstruction surgery.
Four Polish men, three with long criminal records, were later sentenced to between 13 to 19 years’ imprisonment for offences of causing grevious bodily harm and aggravated burglary.
The London Mayor announced in November 2017 the decision to close over half the police stations across the capital in a bid to make financial savings in response to the government’s ongoing cuts to police funding.
The decision followed a consultation launched last July by the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) on a Draft Public Access and Engagement Strategy for the capital, which was described by the Independent Consultation Institute as “the worst consultation of 2017” and reading like “a sales pitch for a pre-determined strategy”.
Mr Kohler said: “As a Londoner, and a parent, I am very concerned by the rise in violent crime and the corresponding decrease in detection rates that has coincided with government cuts to the Met’s budget.
“It would be further folly to compound these problems by adopting the binary and unimaginative response to the funding crisis proposed by the mayor.
“His flawed and self-fulfilling consultation would further remove police from the communities they serve and endanger the entire concept of policing by consent that has always underpinned the British approach to law and order
“Many of the terrible events we have seen recently could not offer a more fitting reminder of the need to ensure police remain at the heart of London’s various communities.
“I do not believe the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is addressing that issue by closing local police stations and removing officers from the communities they police.
“I predict the level of violence we are currently witnessing will become more commonplace as communities suffer by not having locally based officers with locally based knowledge who know the issues of a particular area and can often intervene before problems escalate,” added Mr Kohler.
“Closing local police stations and withdrawing locally based officers will only make things worse. The fact we have been granted a judicial review highlights concerns regarding the legality and wisdom of a decision which will affect all Londoners, for years to come, despite us being given no meaningful role in the decision-making process.
“My judicial review has ensured that none of the 37 police stations earmarked for closure have yet been sold. There is consequently still time to save our police stations provided we win the case and the mayor conducts a proper consultation that takes a more measured, evidence based approach to saving money whilst ensuring that Londoners are not put unduly at risk.”
Solicitor Tessa Gregory from Leigh Day, who represents Mr Kohler, said: “The Mayor decided to embark on a London-wide consultation, and a consultation of that scale which affects so many different communities, clearly needed to be very carefully planned with the public receiving adequate information to ensure they could respond intelligently.
“Our client contends that this consultation was marked by confusion: confusion over documents, confusion over the criteria to be applied – including the application of unpublished criteria and confusion over what information the public should be provided with and why.
“On behalf of our client we will be asking the court to both declare that the mayor’s decision was unlawful and order the mayor to review and reconsider that decision with an open mind, after having carried out a fresh and lawful consultation.”