Social Welfare Update: Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and possession proceedings (2)

Thursday 31 January 2019

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Mr Powell sought to suspend the enforcement of a warrant of possession which had been obtained by his landlord, Dacorum, alleging that Dacorum had failed to discharge the PSED. Prior to requesting the warrant, Dacorum’s anti-social behaviour officer sought to contact Mr Powell,the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) and a local alcohol support organisation. She was not able to get hold of Mr Powell and both the CMHT and the support organisation indicated that Mr Powell was not registered with, or known to, them. She also tried, without success, to obtain information from Mr Powell’s GP. 

Psychiatric evidence was submitted on behalf of Mr Powell in the run-up to the trial to the effect that Mr Powell suffered from a psychotic illness and a depressive episode, as well as a long standing mood disorder, and while some of his symptoms (paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations) had improved, homelessness would put him at risk of relapse. Acting on this the anti-social behaviour officer carried out a PSED assessment. The assessment considered Mr Powell’s medical issues but concluded that they were not such as would result in him having to suffer any particular hardship which he could not be asked to bear were he to lose his accommodation. He had proved himself capable of sourcing alternative accommodation on several occasions in the past. 

After a contested trial a Deputy District Judge (DDJ) dismissed Mr Powell’s application to suspend the warrant. An appeal against this decision was dismissed by a Circuit Judge. The Court of Appeal dismissed a second appeal. The evidence showed that, prior to the warrant being requested, when it became clear Mr Powell was continuing to engage in drug dealing at the property, the anti-social behaviour officer had sought to make inquiries as to his health and had found no evidence to suggest he was suffering from any disability or condition different to that which he had at the time the suspended possession order was imposed. Having done so she complied with the PSED at that stage. Even if there had been a breach it had been remedied by the subsequent PSED assessment completed following the submission of medical evidence during proceedings. In view which it was not necessary for the court to determine a further issue raised on behalf of Mr Powell, whether it would have been open to the judge (relying on a comment to this effect in the judgment of Carnwath LJ in Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council v Norton [2011] EWCA Civ 834, [2012] PTSR 56 at [46] to find that a failure to comply with the PSED would not have made any difference to the decision.

See also - Social Welfare Update: Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and possession proceedings (1)

Connor Johnston is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing team.

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