Dudley v East Sussex County Council (16 April 2003) (unreported) (QBD)

Residential care home – closure – consultation – human rights

An application for judicial review of the local authority’s decision to close a long-term residential care home for the elderly was made on the grounds that the consultation process was unfair in that the information provided had been insufficient and unclear; that the council had pre-judged its decision to close the home before the completion of the consultation process; and that the consultation with the residents had been insufficient, rushed and foreshortened.

The claimant further argued that the local authority had been Wednesbury unreasonable by failing to take into account an alleged increase in the mortality rate for long-term care residents who had been moved; and that the local authority had failed to take account of the claimant’s rights under art 2, art 3 and art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The local authority submitted that the decision to close the home had been made on the basis that alternative appropriate care could be provided more cheaply in the private sector and that the existing site could be used for the provision of much needed intermediate care, and that the consultation process had been adequate.

Dismissing the application, the court ruled that the consultation process had been fair as it had been made clear that closure of the home was a possibility. Whilst the local authority might have had a pre-disposition to close the home, that had not amounted to a pre-judgment. The court rejected the submission that the consultation process had been rushed or foreshortened: every resident had had the opportunity to make representations and the consultation had taken into account special relationships between residents, such that they would be relocated together.

As to the evidence regarding mortality rates, the court found that the local authority had been aware in general terms of the risk and that the care assessments had been sufficient to properly consider the needs of the residents. The court also found that the evidence had not supported a breach of art 2; that the threshold to engage art 3 had not been crossed; and that any breach of art 8 had been justified by the high demand for care for the elderly in the context of a restricted budget.

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