R (Hassan) v Croydon LBC (Admin Court 13 January 2009. Only reported so far in Arden Chambers eflash 336) was a judicial review on the discretion to secure accommodation pending s.202 review under s.188(3) HA 1996 and whether a potential duty under s.20 Children Act 1989 by the authority should be considered.
The applicant, together with her children aged 10 and 3, had fled Doncaster in 2005. In an initial application to Croydon, she stated she had fled through violence by a gang of youths. She was found not homeless. In a subsequent application,in 2006, she stated that the real reason was domestic violence, of which she had been ashamed. Croydon found her intentionally homeless on s.202 review. After living in various temporary addresses, the applicant applied again as homelessand was given temporary accommodation. Croydon found her intentionally homeless from Doncaster. The applicant requested a s.202 review and continued temporary accommodation under s.188(3). Croydon declined to exercise the discretion.
The next day, the applicant’s solicitor provided new information – that the son said he had also been beaten by the father in Doncaster and that the applicant had told the solicitor she wanted to kill herself and her children. The solicitor asked for a reconsideration. Croydon again declined to exercise the discretion.
The applicant issued Judicial Review proceedings, arguing that
i) the s.184 decision was based on the decision in the second application, which was manifestly flawed in that it found that the applicant had suffered domestic violence but had left Doncaster intentionally.
ii) As the authority said it accepted that the applicant has stated an intention to kill herself, it was irrational not to take the case as exceptional.
iii) As the applicant’s children would be children in need for the purposes of s.20 Children Act 1989 if the applicant was not accommodated, the Authority, as a unitary authority, would owe them the s.20 duty. In the light of this, it was irrational not to leave the applicant in her present accommodation, and also a breach of Art. 8.
The decision in respect of the second application was not manifestly flawed.
The Authority had appropriately assessed the new information provided by the solicitor and, in view of the history and context of the case, it was not an irrational decision to find her case was not exceptional.
To require a unitary authority to consider the existence of a s.20 CA duty when deciding on the exercise of the s.188(3) HA discretion would make such decisions unnecessarily complicated. The authority could not be require to take into account such a future duty.
The Art 8 argument was rejected. The JR claim failed.
While turf wars between social services and housing in unitary authorities are hardly news, the run of recent cases, particularly on accommodation for children, has been highly disapproving of attempts to dump duty on one department by another, with recommendations for interaction within unitary authorities.
While the Court’s attention to the administrative burden of the HPU is fair enough, I’m slightly surprised to see an endorsement of the idea that no consideration of the LA’s broader potential duties needs to be involved. That said, it would be hard to imply a duty to consider this into HA 1996.
[We should note that Emily Orme of Arden, who acted for the Claimant, presumably wrote the useful report.]