But High Court refuses to quash decision to shut another 36 London stations
Plans to close Wimbledon Police Station have been declared unlawful after a legal challenge by local Councillor Paul Kohler.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Councillor Kohler had argued in the High Court that the Mayor of London's public consultation and consequent decision to close 37 stations across the capital were legally flawed and unlawful.
The verdict today (July 20) was that the decision to close Wimbledon Police Station in Queen's Road was unlawful and cannot be allowed to stand.
But, while critical of the consultation to close 37 London stations, the court did not quash the decision to shut the other 36 stations.
Following the verdict, the Met said the future of Wimbledon Police Station required "reconsideration".
Lib Dem Councillor Kohler (left), who was subjected to a vicious attack in his Kings Road home, believes he only survived because police officers were able to get to his house from the nearby Wimbledon station, which was earmarked for closure as part of an asset disposal programme expected to bring in £170m.
He was held down and repeatedly beaten and kicked during the burglary in 2014. Following a 999 call from his daughter Eloise, officers from the nearby Queen's Road station arrived within eight minutes to save his life from the attackers. He said it could have been 20 or more minutes if they'd have come from Mitcham Police Station instead.
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.
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.
Councillor 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’.
"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.”
Merton’s Conservative leader Oonagh Moulton said: “I welcome the judgement given in the High Court this morning condemning the flawed consultation for the closure of Wimbledon Police Station. Time now for to support our plan to save Wimbledon Police Station by purchasing it".
The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons comments: “Overall we are pleased with the judgement and happy that we can now continue our wider transformation programme – acknowledging that the decision regarding Wimbledon Police Station requires some reconsideration by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime.
"We maintain that the changes to local policing in London, which followed the consultation were, and remain, necessary to secure an effective and efficient police service across London within our available resources.
"Our research showed that many front counters were inefficient and little used while our online crime reporting continues to grow, with 50 per cent more crimes being reported online than in all the front counters we previously operated and with the overwhelming majority of reports being made over the telephone.
"We remain committed to one 24/7 front counter in every borough and the money saved by closing the least used counters is being invested to maintain front-line services including neighbourhood officers and emergency response.
"We always recognised that many would be disappointed to lose their front counters, but they can be reassured that police were never retreating from their communities - we have more dedicated ward officers and, more often than not, the officers who respond to emergency calls are deployed while they are on patrol rather than from a police station."
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July 20, 2018