In a recently decided judicial review (Laura Ellis v Angus Council) Lord Tyre dismissed a petition citing failure by the Council to provide adequate reasons for its decision that Ms Ellis was intentionally homeless. The case officer had arrived at his decision because:
- Ms Ellis had failed to pay rent lawfully due for her previous tenancy which led to her being evicted
- Ms Ellis was in receipt of housing benefit payments but failed to pay this money towards her rent and
- She had acted in this way knowing that to do so would result in homelessness or the threat of homelessness; and
- It would have been reasonable for her to continue to live in her home
In a subsequent letter to Ms Ellis’ solicitors the case officer indicated that in reaching his decision he had had due regard to the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 and the Code of Guidance on Homelessness to which he was obliged to have regard pursuant to section 37(1) of the Act.
Counsel for Ms Ellis submitted that the Council had failed to give proper and adequate reasons for its decisions and that its decision to find Ms Ellis intentionally homeless was irrational and unreasonable. In particular he cited a failure on the part of the case officer to refer to a specific paragraph of the code that dealt specifically with the youth or inexperience of a homeless person.
Lord Tyre found that the Council had provided an ample explanation to Ms Ellis as to why the finding had been made, that there was no requirement for the case officer to refer to every material consideration and that it was sufficient to address the main issues in dispute. In dismissing the petition he opined that he did not believe it was necessary for the decision maker to refer to a paragraph of ministerial guidance which he did not consider applicable to the case.
Whilst this is by no means a remarkable case it concludes with a common sense judgement that provides clear guidance for public bodies acting as decision makers. It also draws together a number of useful precedents reference to which will help ensure best practice.
On April 1, 2011