A prison cell was not accommodation within the meaning of s.175 Housing Act 1996. Therefore a prisoner eligible for release who had no other accommodation was homeless within the definition in the Act.Application for judicial review of a decision of Southwark London Borough Council ('L') on 20 June 2003 to refuse to provide accommodation to the applicant ('B') as a homeless person. On 19 March 2003, B, who was 17 years old, was sentenced to an eight-month detention and training order. His final release date was 19 July 2003 but he became eligible for release with an electronic tag on 19 June 2003 provided that he had suitable accommodation to go to. B considered himself homeless and applied to L for accommodation. L refused the application on the basis that since B was accommodated in prison he was not homeless within the meaning in s.175 Housing Act 1996. On the present application B argued that: (i) in reliance on Stewart v Lambeth London Borough Council (2002) EWHC Civ 753, incarceration in prison could not comprise "accommodation" within the meaning in s.175 of the Act; (ii) with reference to s.175(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Act, respectively, he was not entitled to occupy his cell, had no express or implied licence to remain there and had no statutory right to live there; and (iii) a prison cell was not accommodation which it was reasonable to occupy within the meaning in s.175(3).HELD: (1) Prison was not accommodation within the meaning of the Act (Stewart v Lambeth (supra) considered). (2) Prison did not fall within s.175(a), (b) or (c) of the Act. For accommodation to exist there had to be a right to occupy that was enforceable or defensible at law. A prisoner could not be said to have a right of occupation and detention was the antithesis of any such right. (3) A prison cell was not accommodation which it was reasonable to occupy within the meaning in s.175(3) of the Act. It was unrealistic to assert that the early release provisions in respect of electronic tagging were some sort of "bonus" and that therefore it was reasonable for B to occupy his cell until 19 July 2003. Objectively it was not reasonable for B to occupy a prison cell when he was entitled to release. (4) Whilst the budgetary constraints of local authorities were recognised, that factor would not deflect the court from a proper construction of s.175 and the outcome of this case would affect only a limited class of applicants.Application allowed.
 EWHC 1678 (Admin)