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Appellant fails in challenge to closure order barring him from accessing his flat

An appellant has lost his appeal over a closure order under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 that meant he was barred from accessing his flat.

The appeal in Taylor v Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council [2020] EWHC 412 (Admin) was by way of case stated from a decision of 17 July 2019 made by three justices in the Birmingham and Solihull Local Justice Area.

The justices made a closure order under s. 80(3) of the 2014 Act in respect of the appellant’s flat in Smiths Wood, Birmingham.

They said they were satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the criteria for the making of the closure order was made out. "The evidence, whilst substantially hearsay, was admissible and we attached weight to it as we considered appropriate. The admission of the appellant's arrest on 16th November 2018 and subsequent search of the premises on the 1st June 2019 was in our view admissible and we attached no [weight] to this in deciding whether the criteria for the making of a closure order was made out or not. Having decided we were going to make the closure order and following further submissions, we concluded that a three-month order was necessary and proportionate in order to achieve the aim of bringing to an end the disorder, nuisance, in relation to drug related use to which the premises had been put to. In light of potential reprisals and to some extent the ongoing criminal investigations it was wholly just appropriate to exclude the appellant from [the property], being mindful that the dwelling is his home and the impact of his rights under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

The justices then posed three questions for the Administrative Court:

(1) Were the justices correct to permit the evidence of outstanding criminal investigations to be adduced?

(2) Were the justices correct to find that they were satisfied to the requisite standard that the statutory criteria under s. 80(5)(a) of [the 2014 Act] had been met?

(3) Were the justices correct to make a closure order excluding the appellant from his home?

Counsel for the appellant, contends that the answer to each of these questions was 'No'.

Mr Justice Chamberlain concluded that:

  • The justices made no error of law in admitting the evidence relied upon by the respondent council, including evidence of (1) what the appellant said in interview under caution, (2) what was found in the search of the appellant's flat and (3) anonymous statements from those who had observed the comings and goings at the appellant's flat. “On the materials the parties have chosen to place before me (which do not include the witness statements or transcripts of oral evidence), I am unable to conclude that the justices' conclusions as to the weight to be attached to the latter involved any error of law.”
  • The appellant had not established that the reasons given by the justices were inadequate or incoherent or, therefore, that the justices were not entitled to conclude that the statutory conditions for the making of a closure order were met.
  • In the present case, the justices directed themselves that it was necessary to consider whether the closure order was necessary and proportionate in the light of the appellant's Article 8 rights. They specifically considered the duration (three months) and the question whether the appellant should be among the class prohibited from accessing the flat. They concluded that he should, in light of his own evidence that he had been coerced into dealing with drugs on behalf of another. This was relevant because it supplied a reason to believe that the statutory purpose would not be achieved if he continued to be permitted to access the flat. Appellate courts hearing appeals on a point of law should not interfere with proportionality analyses of this kind unless an error of law or logic or approach can be identified. There was no such error here. It had therefore not been established that the justices erred in concluding that it was necessary and proportionate to make the closure order they made, notwithstanding that it excluded the appellant from his home.

The appeal was therefore dismissed.

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