News Policy, Guidance & Law Rights, responsibilities & entitlements

High Court finds the local authority’s reasoning was “flawed”

Photo credit: steakpinball via Foter.com / CC BY
Photo credit: steakpinball via Foter.com / CC BY

Another ruling worth a mention. It involves a High Court ruling on a teenager ‘C’ who refused to live with her family ‘because they were not strict enough Muslims’. Mr Justice Hayden ruled that the local children’s services should have provided ‘C’, who had attempted to travel to Syria, with alternative accommodation. The Local Authority’s decision making was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and ‘C’ should now be regarded as a ‘former relevant child’ entitled to assistance until the age of 21.

In 2014 C’s sister rang the local children’s services to say the family was worried that C was planning to leave the country for a second time. It emerged that C had already left the country on her own and travelled to Turkey and she had made her way to the Syrian border. C had been encouraged by a man she met on the Internet. C did subsequently change her mind and contacted her parents. Her father travelled out to collect her and C returned home.

When C returned to the UK she was interviewed by Counter-Terrorism Police and the UK Border Agency, but then refused to go back home with her parents, only doing so after a period in a hotel. C’s family removed her passport but she obtained a replacement. C’s intention had been to visit a group of Muslims living in Turkey that she had met on Twitter and the family had worried that the group might try and involve her in “what was happening in Syria at present”.

C had been a talented pupil. She dropped out of sixth form college. Speaking to social workers, she claimed she had not realised her Twitter contacts had planned to take her into Syria, insisting that “she would not place herself at risk again”.

In August C left home again and claimed that her father had hit her during a row. Her father asked if she could be given accommodation but was told that would not be possible – that because C could return to her parents, C was ‘not technically homeless’ and therefore the children’s services had no responsibility to her under the Children Act 1989.

Mr Justice Hayden said the local authority’s reasoning was “flawed”. He declared:

For the reasons that I have set out above I consider that the Local Authority’s decision making here is fundamentally flawed and, with respect to Mr Paget’s robust presentation of his case, difficult to justify or defend. I can not foresee any circumstances where it would be fair to exclude C from consideration of the entire range of services that would be open to her under s.35 Children (Living Care) Act 2000. This is not to say, of course, that her entitlement to services should necessarily be regarded as automatic, it is inextricably linked to the identification of her welfare requirements. In this respect therefore she is to be regarded ‘as if she were a former relevant child’, to adopt the distinction drawn by Christopher Clarke LJ (see para 53 above). It is plainly desirable for C to be supported to take decisions for herself which are both better informed and rooted in a more reflective analysis. It is perhaps also important to note that there may very well be a significant benefit to wider society.

Read the ruling here: A v London Borough of Enfield

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