The High Court has today quashed the decision by the London Mayor to close Wimbledon police station in a ruling that was critical of his entire consultation into the closing of 37 police stations across the capital.
In today’s judgment, Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis stated that:
“The consultation process in this case was not conducted well. Both the content and the structure of the consultation document were unsatisfactory. It was markedly less helpful than such documents should be if they are to achieve their purpose in informing a decision on a matter of great significance for a large number of people – here the entire population of the metropolis. The internal documents prepared for meetings had omissions and contained errors. The summary of the consultation responses was not adequate. That is all the more surprising given the importance of the issue –policing and public safety in London.”
In the case of Wimbledon police station this included a failure to properly consider the submission of Merton Liberal Democrats that it was premature to take a decision to close Wimbledon police station, and that any decision to do so should be postponed pending an evaluation of the impact of new technology.
In the opinion of the High Court this was a material matter and the failure to consider it amounted to a clear error of law. In their judgment Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis conclude: “The decision to close the Wimbledon police station is… unlawful and cannot be allowed to stand.”
The court also accepted that the point made by Merton Liberal Democrats – that it was premature to take a decision to close Wimbledon police station until a proper assessment had been made of the impact of the introduction of new technology – could have been made in respect of other police stations.
However, in the absence of evidence that it was, the court was not prepared to quash the decision to close the other police stations.
Cllr Paul Kohler commented:
“I am delighted that the High Court agreed with me in holding that the Mayor of London’s entire consultation was unsatisfactory. In the words of the judgment the initial consultation document was ‘incoherent and unhelpful’; the internal documents used by the Mayor’s office ‘had omissions and contained errors’; and the summary of the consultation responses was ‘not adequate’. As the judges said this is ‘all the more surprising given the importance of the issue –policing and public safety in London.’
“In the circumstances, especially after yesterday’s news detailing the increase in crime, particularly violent crime, across the capital, I hope the Mayor of London will take this opportunity to consider the matter afresh and revisit his decision to close all 37 police stations. In light of the High Court’s finding that it was a material consideration I ask, in particular, that he recognizes the strength of Merton Lib Dems’ submission, that it is premature to make an irreversible decision to close so many police stations before the impact of new technology on community policing has been assessed.
“More broadly I ask him to recognise how important a meaningful consultation is to our democracy. I am not saying I have all the answers and the Mayor of London is always wrong, but I am imploring him to recognize his plans can only be enhanced by adopting a more imaginative response to the funding crisis facing the Met.
“On a personal level I am obviously pleased that the High Court has quashed the decision to close Wimbledon police station and only sorry we did not have similar evidence in respect of the other police stations. Now the court has confirmed that the decision to close it was unlawful, I respectfully ask the Mayor to address the concerns of Merton Lib Dems, that were ignored in the original consultation, and recognize it would be premature to close Wimbledon police station before there has been time to assess the impact of new technology.”
Tessa Gregory a partner at the law firm Leigh Day who represented Cllr Kohler in the judicial review stated:
“Our client is delighted that the court has today quashed the decision of the Mayor’s Office to close and sell his local police station in Wimbledon. Whilst the court did not consider it had the necessary evidence to quash the decision to close other police stations across London, it was highly critical in its judgment of the way in which the whole consultation was conducted.
“The judges noted that these failings were particularly surprising given the importance of the issue: the policing and public safety of the capital. Our client hopes that the Mayor will take time to humbly reflect on the comments made by the court and reconsider his decision. Londoners deserve better.”