Lecturer’s fight against police station closures will go to High Court
Paul Kohler believes the only reason he survived a savage beating by burglars was because police were based minutes from his home.
A university lecturer who was beaten by a gang of burglars will take his fight against plans to close half of London’s police stations to the High Court.
Paul Kohler, 58, who was left with severe facial injuries after the terrifying raid on his home in 2014, has been granted a judicial review of proposals to shut 38 of the capital’s 73 police front counters.
He believes that the only reason he survived the brutality is because police officers were able to get to his house from the local station in Wimbledon within eight minutes of the 999 call made by his daughter.
The proposals, brought in as the Met faces spending cuts of £400 million by 2021, are expected to save £8 million and raise another £165 million from the sale of police buildings.
The London Mayor’s office said only 8% of crimes were reported to police front counters in 2016, down from 22% in 2006.
Mr Kohler, 58, said: “Many of the terrible events we have seen recently, including children being shot and a pensioner initially arrested for murder after confronting a burglar in his own home, could not offer a more fitting reminder of the need to ensure police remain at the heart of London’s various communities.
“I do not believe the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is addressing that issue by closing local police stations and removing officers from the communities they police. I predict the level of violence we are currently witnessing will become more commonplace as communities suffer by not having locally based officers with locally based knowledge who know the issues of a particular area and can often intervene before problems escalate.”
Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, 17, and Amaan Shakoor, 16, were shot dead within around 30 minutes of each other in separate killings in north London on Easter Monday.
Two days later 78-year-old Richard Osborn-Brooks stabbed burglar Henry Vincent with a screwdriver after discovering the intruder in his home.
Mr Osborn-Brooks was initially arrested on suspicion of murder but was later told he would face no further action.
The challenge to the front counter closures is based on a claim that the public consultation over the plans was legally flawed because not enough information was given to the public, and their responses were not properly considered.
Mr Kohler is crowdfunding his legal battle, with the judicial review due to be heard in June. He is raising funds at www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-londons-police-stations
His solicitor Tessa Gregory from Leigh Day, said: “A decision which potentially impacts the lives of every person living and working in the capital should be thoroughly considered, including a widespread and effective public consultation with the millions of people affected.
“Our client believes the public consultation was inadequate and unlawful. In the interests of all Londoners he is pleased that a judge will now consider the legality of the original decision and hopes that in the fullness of time a more considered and thoughtful approach, which keeps the streets of the capital safe, can be found.”
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said following legal advice it did not object to the application for a judicial review “in order to draw this matter to a close as quickly as possible”.
It said it is “committed to robustly defending these claims and the consultation process”.