Claim number: CO/1144/2023
In the High Court of Justice
King’s Bench Division
16 November 2023
The Honourable Mr Justice Poole
OW (by his Litigation Friend) Joshua Singer)
London Borough of Islington Children’s Services
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 and Summary Grounds of Defence filed by the Defendant
ORDER by the Honourable Mr Justice Poole on 15 November 2023
- The Claimant is granted anonymity under CPR 39.2(4) and shall be referred to in these proceedings as “OW” the Court being satisfied that non-disclosure of the identity of the Clamant is necessary to secure the proper administration of justice and in order to protect the interests of the Claimant.
- Permission to the Claimant to rely on his Reply dated 8 September 2023.
- The application for permission to apply for judicial review is refused.
- No order for costs.
- I apply the test set out in R (FZ) v LB of Croydon  EWCA Civ 59. In the light of all the material I have decided that, taken at its highest, the Claimant’s case cannot properly succeed.
- The challenged decision is an age assessment which was initially concluded on 28 December 2022 and then reviewed and supported with an addendum on 21 June 2023 in the light of new evidence presented by the Claimant. The assessment was extremely detailed, running to over 80 pages (before the addendum) and was carried out by two social workers in the presence of an interpreter and, save or the initial interview, an appropriate adult, taking place over four sessions, with an additional two “minded-to” sessions and then further involvement leading to the addendum.
- The assessment does not place undue reliance on any one factor, including physical appearance and/or demeanour. Of importance, however, was the evidence as to the unreliability of knowledge of the Claimant’s age from information given to him by family in his home country. That unreliability therefore reasonably affected the view taken of the documents produced by the Claimant leading to the addendum in June 2023. The assessment was holistic and balanced. Extensive enquiry was made. It met the criteria for a lawful age assessment set out in the authorities including Merton and R(AB) referred to in the parties’ grounds.
- It cannot properly be contended that the assessment was Wednesbury unreasonable in the light of documentary evidence. The assessors were entitled to weigh the documentary evidence alongside all other evidence and to give it the weight that they gave it for the reasons they stated. Then assessors took into account the relevant views of others and weighed those alongside all the other evidence. They considered documentary evidence when provided, demonstrating that they had kept an open mind as to the further evidence. Given the extent of the inquiry undertaken by the assessors the Claimant’s case that there was a failure to discharge the Tameside duty cannot realistically be made out. The Claimant complains that the length of the assessment is indicative of an unfair approach whereby the assessors went to “great lengths to find inconsistencies in the Claimant’s evidence”. That is an untenable complaint – the assessment is long precisely because the assessors took trouble to scrutinise an weigh the evidence. There is no arguable case under ground 1.
- As to the allegation of procedural unfairness, the fact that different interpreters and appropriate adults were at the sessions may not be desirable but cannot amount to procedural unfairness. There is no evidence on which it could realistically be asserted that this affected the outcome of the assessment. Ground 2 discloses no arguable case.
- Ground 3 of the Claimant’s grounds returns to the allegation that the conclusion of the assessment was wrong. It is contended that the conclusion as to age reached by the assessors was not open to them, but they went to great lengths to explain their decision and it was manifestly a decision that they were entitled to reach for the reasons they gave and which do not need to be repeated in these short reasons.
- Ground 4 only arises if the age assessment were wrong or successfully challenged.
- I have had full regard to the Reply and the decision of the UT in R(R) v LB of Islington appended to the Reply. Evidence from Dr Zadeh was considered by the assessors at the time of the addendum. The evidence of Dr Zadeh and Dr Giustozzi does not affect the conclusions stated above. Their evidence may be of assistance to the court as was found by the UT in R(R) above but cannot meet the issue which primarily concerned the assessors of the reliability of the information within the documents. The reliability of the information included in documents produced, which led to the addendum to the age assessment, was properly a matter to be considered alongside all the other evidence, by the Defendant. That is what the assessors did with conspicuous care as set out in their detailed addendum and detailed original assessment.
- In the circumstances permission is refused and no interim remedy would be appropriate having regard to the balance of convenience and the lawful age assessment that has been made.
- Even though permission is refused, anonymity is granted – it is not opposed and Art 10 rights are not significantly affected by the granting of anonymity to this Claimant.
- The Defendant has not made any application for costs.