Two reserved judgments have both been delivered on 23 January 2020 in which Philip Rule succeeded on behalf of two very different clients.

In R (AB) v Kent County Council [2020] EWHC 109 (Admin) the issue was whether the local authority, when assessing of the age of the unaccompanied young person who had given the age of a minor, had lawfully avoided the requirements established in Merton and other subsequent cases for procedural safeguards in a full age assessment. The authority asserted it was a clear and obvious case of adulthood and it could therefore avoid a full assessment. Mrs Justice Thornton DBE found the purported assessment was unlawful because it was based on AB’s physical appearance and demeanour, failed to adequately acknowledge the potential margin for error and to give AB the corresponding benefit of the doubt and to proceed to conduct a full Merton-compliant Age Assessment. In AB’s particular case the council’s suggested age range of between 20–25 being consistent to physical appearance and demeanour was insufficient to take account of the ‘margin of error’ required to be observed when disputing age.

The Administrative Court has ordered that a fresh assessment be conducted by independent social workers within a required timeframe.

Philip Rule, No5 Barristers’ Chambers, was instructed on behalf of the applicant by the experienced Stuart Luke and Martin Bridger of Instalaw Solicitors, who were instructed by the Refugee Council acting as litigation friend to the claimant.

In a wholly separate case, heard by the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) over two days in October 2019, Philip’s client is successful in the judgment in R (Michael) v Secretary of State for Justice [2020] EWCA Civ 29. That appeal concerned a high-security prisoner who acts as litigant-in-person in civil proceedings and has sought his production before the county court to be able to present his case and to appear as a witness. The authorities’ decision that he should not be produced has been quashed. The decision-maker failed to take into proper account the availability of a secure dock at the county court centre. This case raised for the first time for the Court of Appeal’s attention the potential enforced use of videolink in civil proceedings as a substitute for attendance, and consideration is given to natural justice and Article 6 ECHR fair trial rights.

Philip was instructed by Julian Coningham of Coninghams Solicitors on behalf of the successful appellant.

This case is digested in the WLR dailies at [2020] WLR(D) 41, CA

Philip Rule is Head of the Public Law group at No5 Barristers’ Chambers, and a specialist in judicial review and appellate work across a broad range of jurisdictions and areas of practice.