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Judges urged to overturn ‘unlawful’ decision to close London police stations

Legal action has been brought by lecturer Paul Kohler, who believes he only survived an attack because local officers got to the scene quickly.

A university lecturer who was the victim of a violent attack has urged High Court judges to overturn a decision to close more than half of London’s police stations.

Paul Kohler, 59, believes the only reason he survived a brutal beating in 2014 was because officers were able to get to his home from the local station in Wimbledon, south west London, within eight minutes of the 999 call made by his daughter.

David Wolfe QC, representing Mr Kohler in his judicial review action, told two judges in London on Wednesday that he was seeking an order quashing the closure decision.

At the heart of the case is a challenge over plans by the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to close 37 of the current 73 police stations across the capital.

Mr Wolfe argued before Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis that the decision to close police station counters and dispose of the premises was “unlawful”.

He submitted that the consultation process carried out before the decision was made was “characterised by a lack of information and a lack of clarity”.

The QC said the decision “needs to be quashed and the process re-run”, with a public consultation that “allows Londoners to properly participate” in the “crucial” issue of police station closures.

Before the proceedings began, a spokeswoman for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The mayor robustly defends the challenge brought against the planned closure of police station counters and consultation process behind it.”

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has defended the closures (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She added: “These closures are the result of cuts to the police budget since 2010, which have seen officer numbers drop below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years, meaning buildings had to be closed in order to save an additional £8 million a year and protect the front line of policing as much as possible.

“4,000 Londoners submitted their views on the consultation on front counter closures. The views submitted during the consultation were carefully considered and some boroughs saw changes made as a result. Operational considerations were taken fully into account.

“Police officers are spending more time out on patrol in the areas they are needed most. More often than not they respond to calls while they are on patrol rather than from a police station so, while public concern about closing front counters is understandable, response times will not be affected by closure.”

Mr Kohler, whose local station faces closure, was present in court for the hearing.

Mr Wolfe said Mr Kohler, a senior lecturer in the school of Law at SOAS University of London and visiting professor at Queen Mary College University of London, was severely beaten by four men who forced their way into his family home.

He told the judges that Mr Kohler, who suffered extensive injuries and permanent double vision, was “saved by the bravery of two officers from his local police station”, and he believed the outcome would have been “much worse” if the police had been unable to get to him so quickly.

He said: “That personal experience added to the claimant’s interest and concern about the need for and role of local police counters and stations across London.

“As a born and bred Londoner working in Bloomsbury and the East End, and owning a bar in the West End, he knows how important local police are to life in London, and in particular the night-time economy.”

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Lecturer Paul Kohler arriving at the High Court for his judicial review hearing (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Wolfe argued that the decision of the defendant, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, in relation to “police counters and stations across London” was “so flawed as to be unlawful”.

Mr Kohler was seeking an order which would require the defendant “lawfully to consider its decision afresh following a lawful process”.

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