Court of Session finds in favour of homeless petitioner for judicial review

In the petition for judicial review of Zungunde v. Glasgow City Integration Joint Board, the Court of Session has ruled that simply assuming a person was intentionally homeless because he was evicted for rent arrears was wrong in law.

The court’s full judgment is available on the Scottish Courts website here:

Lord Woolman held that Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) decision was invalid for want of due consideration and regard of the statutory Scottish code of guidance on homelessness, and for the council’s failure to give adequate reasons for its decision. Explaining the court’s reasoning Lord Woolman said:

“Turning to the decision letter itself, it is not apparent that GCC fulfilled any of the steps mentioned in the Code to investigate the cause of the petitioner’s homelessness. Noreasonable reader could draw that inference.

Instead he or she would deduce that GCC had made an automatic assumption without inquiry, contrary to the guidance. The Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed that adequate reasons must be provided in homelessness cases. Nzolameso v Westminster City Council[2015] UKSC 22 at paragraph 3, GCC does not satisfy that test. Its reasons were inadequate”

The petitioner had failed to lodge a statutory review of GCC’s homeless decision with the standard 21 day period, and the respondent argued under reference to longstanding caselaw that this failure rendered the petition incompetent.

The court rejected this argument upon the basis the decision was invalid and the petitioner’s circumstances were exceptional:

“That allows a departure from the normal rule that all other remedies must be exhausted. I note that the petitioner sought a review as soon as he received independent advice and that no other route is now open to him. So on the merits I find in his favour”.

Ultimately Lord Woolman ruled that while homelessness statutory functions had been delegated in law to the respondent – an Integration Joint Board:

“having regard to the Inner House’s ruling in West vThe Secretary of State for Scotland [1992] SC 385 at pages 412-413, judicial review had to be against the decision-maker. Lord Woolman ruled this was GCC, as the Integration Joint Board had responsibility for strategic planning and not decision-making for service users”

However, the court made it clear GCC should read its judgment carefully so as to avoid the need for further legal proceedings to accommodate the petitioner.

GLC believes this judgment will be extremely helpful for many people in Scotland who are homeless; it clarifies the law in relation to the statutory responsibilities of IJBs, but moreover it sends a strong and clear signal for the need to properly consider the statutory Scottish code of guidance on homelessness, provide adequate reasons for decisions, and not assume a person is intentionally homeless simply because they were evicted.

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