A -v- London Borough of Ealing (anonymity order)
Administrative CourtHigh CourtKing's Bench DivisionAnonymity Order
Claim number: CO/595/2023
In the High Court of Justice
King’s Bench Division
3 April 2023
Deputy Chamber President Tudur sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge
The King on the application of
London Borough of Ealing
Notification of the Judge’s decision on the application for permission to apply for judicial review (CPR 54.11, 54.12)
Following consideration of the documents lodged by the Claimant and the Acknowledgement of Service filed by the Defendant
ORDER by Deputy Chamber President Tudur sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge
- Pursuant to CPR rule 39.2(4) there shall not be disclosed in any report of the proceedings the name or address of the Claimant or any details leading to his identification. If referred to, the Claimant shall only be referred to as A.
- Pursuant to CPR rule 5.4C a person who is not a party to the proceedings may obtain a copy of a statement of case, judgment or order from the court records only if the statement of case, judgment or order has been anonymised such that: (a) the Claimant is referred to in those documents only as A; and (b) any references to his name have been deleted from those documents.
- The application for permission to apply for judicial review is refused.
- The application for interim relief is refused.
- The Claimant seeks to challenge the decision of the Defendant, dated 02 November 2022, that the Claimant is an adult, where the Claimant claims to be a child aged 16 years old, a decision which it is submitted is unlawful, unreasonable and irrational. The Claimant also seeks to challenge the refusal and/or failure of the Defendant to provide the Claimant with support and services as a child under the Children Act 1989. The Claimant seeks declarations that the assessment was unlawful, was wrong as a matter of fact and that the Claimant is his claimed age of 17; an order quashing the age assessment and costs.
- The claim therefore concerns an age dispute between the Claimant and the Defendant, a local authority with functions, powers, and duties under the Children Act 1989. The age assessment is challenged on the following grounds:
First, the Defendant’s assessment of the Claimant’s age was not based on firm grounds or reasons;
Second, the Defendant’s assessment of the Claimant’s age was procedurally unfair as it did not comply with the minimum standards of fairness as required by the Merton principles; and,
Third, the Defendant’s assessment of the Claimant’s age was wrong in fact as per R (FZ) v Croydon LBC  EWCA Civ 59: he is a child of 17 years of age.
- In relation to the first ground, the Defendant took into consideration all the available evidence from the age assessment, which was the third such assessment carried out by the Defendant and the interviews for which were undertaken by two experienced, independent social workers. The investigation was reasonable and the process fair. The interviews took place over several dates and provided an opportunity for appropriate information gathering from the Claimant. The Defendant evaluated the evidence in all the circumstances of the case and set out the reasons for the conclusions reached. The assessment was detailed and carried out over several interviews, enabling the Claimant to provide his evidence in full.
- The Claimant disagrees with the conclusion that he is an adult and now aged 20, but the decision took into consideration all the relevant evidence and it is not arguable that the decision was not based on firm grounds or reasons.
- The second element of the challenge is that the assessment was procedurally unfair and not ‘Merton compliant’. The challenge is not arguable. The age assessment was conducted through formal interviews with suitably qualified social workers. The decision sets out the evidence relied upon and the issues relating to the evidence provided by the Claimant are explained and reasons provided for the conclusions reached. The Claimant disagrees with the conclusions of the Defendant, but that does not support the conclusion that the assessment taken as a whole was not ‘Merton compliant.’ nor that the conclusion that the Claimant was an adult was wrong in fact.
- The second ground of challenge, relating to the alleged failure to provide support pursuant to the Children Act 1989 is dependent on the success of the first ground of challenge. Since the first ground is not arguable, the second also fails on the basis that it is not arguable.
- The substantive threshold for the grant of permission to claim judicial review in such a claim is that set out in R (FZ) v Croydon  EWCA Civ 59: “…whether the material before the court raises a factual case which, taken at its highest, could not properly succeed in a contested factual hearing. If so, permission should be refused. If not, permission should normally be granted, subject to other discretionary factors, such as delay.”
On his own account and the very limited information he provided, the evidence supporting the Claimant’s assertions regarding his age are weak and I conclude that the Claimant’s factual case taken at its highest could not succeed in a contested factual hearing.