Poole J, sitting in the Administrative Court, has today allowed the judicial review claims brought on behalf of three individuals (AB, NLK and AD) against a local authority that had declined to accommodate individuals undergoing an age assessment process: [2021] EWHC 2843 (Admin).

The Home Office had regarded the three as, in its opinion, obviously adults, and so sent them to adult accommodation at a hotel in the authority’s area.

The authority was approached with referrals of the individuals seeking a Merton (case-law) compliant fair age assessment be undertaken.

The issue in the case was whether the local authority could avoid its obligations to accommodate pursuant to section 20 of the Children Act 1989 on the basis that it regarded the adult asylum-seeker accommodation, that the Home Office provides, to mean that they did not appear to the local authority to require accommodation.

The Court had ordered interim relief on the papers to ensure that pending judgment the claimants had been accommodated notwithstanding the stance taken by the LB of Brent and which it sought to defend at the judicial review.

The claimants were represented by Stuart Luke and Martin Bridger of Instalaw Solicitors, instructing counsel Philip Rule of No5 Barristers’ Chambers to represent AB and NLK. AD was represented by Zia Nabi.

The reserved judgment allowed the claims. The Court declared that the local authority had acted unlawfully in breach of its duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and in breach of statutory and non-statutory guidance by failing to provide the claimants, each an age disputed putative child, with child appropriate accommodation and support pending the conclusion of his age assessment.

It also declared that the accommodation at the hotel provided by the Secretary of State under the asylum support provisions was not suitable accommodation for the claimants so as to enable the Defendant to be able to lawfully conclude that the claimants did not appear to require accommodation.

Philip Rule is Head of the Public Law Group at No5 Barristers’ Chambers.