Court backs Wandsworth over failure to house man

    The high court ruled this week that Wandsworth Council does not
    have to provide immediate housing for a homeless man who poses a
    serious risk to the public.

    Acknowledging the difficulties faced by councils in such
    situations, Mr Justice Sullivan said Clifford Fentiman’s violent
    past and mental health problems made him a particularly difficult
    person for the London council to place.

    “The council has not simply sat back and failed to try and find
    accom-modation,” he said. “It has looked, and looked hard.”

    He concluded that the council had done its best to comply with
    its duty to provide secure accom-modation for Fentiman but was
    “faced with a very difficult problem”.

    He added that it would be irresponsible of the council to put
    Fentiman in unsupervised accom-modation given that he posed a
    public danger.

    Fentiman, who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder,
    left Springfield Hospital in south London in July after six months
    as a voluntary in-patient and has since sought interim
    accommodation while a decision is made on his housing
    application.

    But hostel and emergency bed and breakfast accommodation were
    deemed unsuitable, and specialist hostels had refused him.

    A council spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the judge has
    recognised the immense difficulties local authorities face in
    finding suitable accommodation in a complex and difficult cases
    like this.

    He added that the council would continue to look for suitable
    accommodation but would “not place him somewhere that is not safe
    for other people”.

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