Professor rescued from thugs stalls Sadiq Khan’s plan to close police stations

Sadiq Khan’s plan to close more than half of London’s police stations to the public has been put on hold following a legal challenge from a university professor brutally attacked at home.

The High Court has agreed to hear a crowdfunded judicial review application from Paul Kohler, questioning the legality of the consultation process being used to shut 38 of the 73 police front counters in the capital.

Mr Kohler said the recent spate of shootings and stabbings, which have taken the capital’s violent death toll above 50 this year, made the need for police to retain local links even more important.

City Hall has agreed not to sell any of the stations pending the outcome of the hearing, which is due to take place in June.

Mr Kohler, 58, believes he only  survived when a gang attacked him in 2014 because police were able to respond within eight minutes from Wimbledon police station — now due to be sold off. His four attackers were sentenced to between 13 and 19 years in jail.

He 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. 

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“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.”

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said it would “robustly defend” its plans and the consultation process. It said it had not objected to the case proceeding to a full hearing in order to “draw this matter to a close as quickly as possible”.

Mr Khan believes he can raise £165 million from property sales and save £8 million a year by closing police station front counters. Just eight per cent of crimes are said to have been reported at front counters in 2016. 

The Met’s budget has been reduced by £600 million since 2010 and it has to find a further £400 million of savings by 2021. City Hall said a police front counter would remain open 24/7 in every borough.

Mr Kohler, a legal academic at SOAS university, said: “We have got to keep police local. We are not saying cut bobbies to keep police stations. What we are saying is use your resources better.”

His solicitor Tessa Gregory, from Leigh Day, said: “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.”

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