LIBRARY CAMPAIGNERS CONSIDER SUPREME COURT APPEAL
Campaigners seeking to halt the closure plans for half of Brent’s public libraries suffered a setback today when the Court of Appeal rejected their appeal against refusal of their judicial review claim. The campaigners are considering pursuing an appeal to the Supreme Court. It would be the first opportunity for the highest UK court to consider both the equality duties at the heart of their case and the legality of large-scale public library closures.
The campaigners’ solicitor, John Halford, of Bindmans LLP said today:
“Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent, and all other local authorities, to properly grapple with the impact withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities. The Court of Appeal appears to accept that there is a risk of indirect discrimination against significant numbers of people in Brent resulting from its plans to impose devastating cuts on local library services, but it has excused the Council from properly taking that risk into account before it deciding to make those cuts. Our position is that this is simply wrong in principle. If the Supreme Court is willing to hear this case, we anticipate the outcome being very different.”
Margaret Bailey of SOS Brent Libraries, who is also one of the appellants, said:
“Our legal team presented compelling evidence of damage to communities from Brent Council’s library closures, so we are disappointed that the appeal judges have not found in our favour.
“Closing half of our libraries has had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable members of our community, among them children and families, the elderly, the disabled and those unemployed or on low incomes.
“Brent has always had the means to keep these libraries open, it just lacks the will. The overwhelming strength of public feeling over the last year shows that communities need, want and will support local libraries.
“Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has so far held back pending the outcome of this test case.
“The thousands of letters and petitions he has received demonstrate that Brent is neglecting its duties under the Libraries and Museums Act, and he must now call hold a public inquiry into the actions of this council.
“Brent SOS Libraries campaign will also present evidence to the select committee that clearly demonstrates Brent’s failures.
“We are grateful to the excellent and committed work on behalf of the community of our legal team, John Halford, Dinah Rose and Gerry Facenna and are taking their advice on our options in the light of this judgment.”