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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the ordinary residence water….

 

Oh my flip.

 

Re S (A child) 2017

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/2695.html

 

2017, but only published recently.

 

In a nutshell.   Parents live in Leicester City (City) and mum is pregnant.  City propose to issue care proceedings. Parents move to a new town, in Leicestershire (County).  City write to County, and invite them to do something about the forthcoming baby. Discussions don’t resolve things, and so City say “we will issue care proceedings, and ask that you be designated as local authority”.  No response.

Child is born in a maternity hospital which falls in Leicester City (City) and City issue care proceedings. ICO is made, child placed in foster care (which happens to be in the City, but that doesn’t matter because of s105 stop the clock provisions).  Court designate County as the LA.

 

County appeal.

 

This is the fundamental question:-

 

  1. The question, therefore, arises as to whether, as is argued by Mr Kingerley on behalf of the respondent, a new-born child’s residence is derived solely from the mother’s place of residence, notwithstanding that the child has never been present at the place of the mother’s ordinary residence, and that there has been (and is) no intention that the child will ever be in the care of his mother.

 

At the appeal the two arguments are :-

 

City say it is County, because the child’s ordinary residence is with the mother in County.

 

  1. In C (A Child) v Plymouth County Council, whilst an interim care order was made in respect of the child in question immediately following her birth, that baby lived with her mother at various addresses in Liverpool and in Plymouth. The dispute centred around which of the two local authorities should be the designated local authority. It was in this context that, on the facts of that case, Thorpe LJ upheld the judge’s view that a new-born baby was incapable of having an ordinary residence apart from the mother, and that, therefore, the ordinary residence would be dependent upon the residence of the mother.
  2. This theme was picked up more recently by Ryder LJ in Medway v Kent [2016] EWCA Civ 366 at [21]:
      1. “In C (A Child) v Plymouth County Council [2000] 1 FLR 875 Thorpe LJ re-emphasised the basis of the Northampton decision which, he said, was to put an end to litigation of this kind between local authorities (see, for example at 878 and per Swinton Thomas LJ at 880). Thorpe LJ agreed with the first instance court that it was a reasonable inference of fact in the circumstances of that case that a new born baby would be unlikely to have an ordinary residence apart from her primary career and that for a child of such a tender age, the child’s ordinary residence would usually follow that of her carer.”

 

County say it is City, because the child’s physical presence in County is an essential ingredient of ordinary residence. The child never set foot in County, because the child was removed from hospital in City.  Whilst if the child had not been removed and had gone home with mum the child would have been living in County, that doesn’t apply because it never actually happened.  So the child has NO ordinary residence, and then the second limb applies, that the designated authority is the one with the background knowledge and where the circumstances that led to the care proceedings happening took place – in this case City.

 

[The Courts have found that habitual residence does REQUIRE physical presence at least at some point]

 

  1. The matter was thereafter heard by the Supreme Court- A v A and Another (Children: Habitual Residence) [2013] UKSC 60, [2014] AC1. Although there were extensive arguments before the court in relation to the requirement of presence before habitual residence can be established, the Supreme Court in fact decided the case, not on the issue of habitual residence, but upon nationality. The observations of the court in relation to presence were, therefore, strictly speaking, obiter, but, as Mr Roche rightly submits, of powerful influence upon this court. Mr Roche, therefore, relies on certain observations made in particular by Baroness Hale in her majority judgment (Lord Wilson, Lord Reed and Lord Toulson agreeing and Lord Hughes dissenting).
  2. Mr Roche highlights Baroness Hale’s reference to earlier cases where physical presence was assumed to be an integral ingredient of habitual residence and relies on Baroness Hale’s observations at paragraph [55]:
      1. “So which approach accords most closely with the factual situation of the child – an approach which holds that presence is a necessary pre-cursor to residence and thus to habitual residence or an approach which focusses on the relationship between the child and his primary carer? In my view, it is the former. It is one thing to say that a child’s integration in the place where he is at present depends upon the degree of integration of his primary carer. It is another thing to say that he can be integrated in a place to which his primary carer has never taken him. It is one thing to say that a person can remain habitually resident in a country from which he is temporarily absent. It is another thing to say that a person can acquire a habitual residence without ever setting foot in a country. It is one thing to say that a child is integrated in the family environment of his primary carer and siblings. It is another thing to say that he is also integrated into the social environment of a country where he has never been”
  1. Mr Kingerley, for his part, also properly draws the court’s attention to the dissenting judgment of Lord Hughes in A v A, and, in particular, his observation at paragraph [90]:
      1. “The decision of the Court of Appeal in this case involves a rule or general proposition because it necessarily excludes habitual residence without some past physical presence. The contrary approach, which to my mind is correct, involves no rule or generality at all, save for the advice to look, in the case of an infant, at the position of the family unit of which he is part. This does not involve a rule for dependent habitual residence. It merely asserts the possibility that habitual residence may exist in a State which is the home of the family unit of which the infant is part, and is where he would be but for force majeure.”

And at [92]:

“If current physical presence is not essential, then so also can habitual residence exist without any physical presence yet having occurred, at least if it has only been prevented by some kind of unexpected force majeure.”

  1. Mr Kingerley goes on to submit that to adopt the approach in A v A would undermine the concept of “rapid and not over-sophisticated review”, such as is required in a designation case since the days of the Northamptonshire case. A v A would lead, he says, to the introduction of a more complex and sophisticated test which is both unnecessary and goes against the approach of the Northamptonshire case, as confirmed by the Plymouth case.
  2. I accept Mr Kingerley’s submission to the extent that it would undoubtedly undermine the well-established approach to the determination of which local authority is to be designated for the purposes of a care order, if the court was expected to engage with detailed questions of fact of the type which might have been anticipated by the Supreme Court in order to determine habitual residence. It would, in my view, be both inappropriate and unnecessary to treat an application of this type in the same way, and with the same level of detail and sophistication as is sometimes found in disputes in relation to a child’s habitual residence in international cases.
  3. However, it is not that aspect of the judgment upon which Mr Roche relies. Rather, he relies on the fact that four of the five Supreme Court justices doubted that a child could acquire habitual residence in a country in which he had never been present.
  4. Since the decision in the Supreme Court, the CJEU has considered the issue of physical presence in the context of habitual residence.
  5. In W and V v X (Case C-499/15) the court held, at [61]:
      1. “Thus, the determination of a child’s habitual residence in a given Member State requires at least that the child has been physically present in that Member State.”
  1. A few months later in OL v OP Case C-111/17 PPU, in the opinion of the Advocate General, the question was posed at paragraph [29] as was:
      1. “… is physical presence a necessary and self-evident prerequisite, in all circumstances, for establishing the habitual residence of a person, and in particular a new-born child?”
  2. The Advocate General had the benefit of oral argument presented to him by, amongst others, Mr Edward Devereux QC on behalf of the United Kingdom. The Advocate General’s opinion in relation to this aspect of the matter is found at paragraphs [81-83]:
      1. “81.…it is not inconceivable that there may be wholly exceptional circumstances in which it might be appropriate to disregard the criterion of physical presence. However, the present case, dealt with under the urgent procedure, does not lend itself to an in-depth examination of that question of principle. Given the circumstances of this case, an answer to such a question is not needed in order to provide a helpful answer to the question submitted by the referring court.

82. However, it seems timely to observe that, in such circumstances, and taking into consideration, in particular, that habitual residence is a question of fact, it is necessary that a tangible connection be established with a country other than that where the child is in fact living.

83. Such a connection would have to be based, in the best interests of the child, on concrete and substantial evidence that could thus take precedence over the physical presence of the child. Plainly, there would not be a sufficient connection if there were some prospect that a particular Member State might become, on an indefinite future date, the place where the child would be habitually resident, unless that prospect were reinforced by other tangible links of such a kind that the prerequisite of the child’s physical presence could be set aside.”

  1. When the matter came before the full court, the question previously put before the Advocate General was slightly rephrased to reflect the fact that the child in question had been born by agreement between the parties in a specific country and had thereafter remained in the care of the mother for a period of months. The full court, therefore, dealt with the matter only briefly saying at paragraph [42-43]:
      1. “According to that case law, the habitual residence of a child corresponds to the place which reflects some degree of integration by the child in a social and family environment. That place must be established by the national courts taking into account all the circumstances of facts specific to each individual case… To that end, in addition to the physical presence of a child in a member state, other factors must also make it clear that presence is in not any way temporary or intermittent and that the child’s residence corresponds to the place which reflects such integration in a social and family environment.”
  1. What is clear from A v A, at both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court level and in the European jurisprudence, is that, in order to establish habitual residence, there will be an expectation that the child will have been present in the area where it is suggested that he, or she, is habitually resident.

 

 

 

The Court of Appeal therefore had to consider whether those judicial pronouncements on HABITUAL RESIDENCE also applied to ORDINARY RESIDENCE (so the physical presence of the child overrides the principle that a child’s ordinary residence is with the parent)

 

  1. In my judgement, the requirement of physical presence must equally apply to a determination of ordinary residence. The majority of the Court of Appeal in A v A was robust in suggesting that presence may be an absolute requirement. The Supreme Court do not specifically deal with the issue, but favour “presence”. The Advocate General in OL v OP addressed the matter head-on, as already quoted at paragraph [81], although the Advocate General regarded it as “not inconceivable that there may be wholly exceptional circumstances in which physical presence will not be necessary”.

 

So the child, who had never been in the parents home in County, did not live in County.  The child had no ordinary residence, which left City both metaphorically and literally holding the baby.

 

Good news for LA’s who don’t have a maternity hospital in their area, bad news for those who do.  (If in this example, County had done pre-proceedings work, then they would have been the designated authority on the second limb, but as they hadn’t City kept it.  So it is not just ‘where was the baby physically before removal?’  but who is the authority under s31(1) (b) as you can’t rely on parents residence to establish ordinary residence with a child removed from hospital that isn’t in the same area.

 

s31 (1) (b) where the child does not reside in the area of the local authority, the authority within whose area any circumstances arose in consequence of which the order is being made.

[I think it is still arguable that if there were ANY incidents that went to threshold in County, even a continuation of existing concerns, then ANY circumstances could still have caught County. If it isn’t obvious, my sympathies here, on the limited facts that are before me, are with City. Not least because in appealing this decision, County have introduced a brand new headache into what was already far too difficult]

The sooner we implement my Residence/Schmesidence Act the better

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/07/03/the-residenceschmesidence-act-2015/

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The Supreme Court ignore my new Act

Having laboured over the drafting of brand new legislation to avoid any disputes about where people live,  https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/07/03/the-residenceschmesidence-act-2015/  I am disappointed that the Supreme Court did not take the opportunity to pick up that particular baton and run with it.

 

And if you thought that people were litigating about ordinary residence too much BEFORE, just you wait.

 

The Supreme Court in R (on the application of Cornwall Council) 2015  https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2014-0092-judgment.pdf  were dealing with a tricky scenario.

 

P had been a child, and when he was a child, had been placed in foster care in Wiltshire. This was in 1991.  As part of his care, Wiltshire PLACED him in South Gloucestershire.   When P became an adult, his needs were such that he required accommodation under the National Assistance Act 1948.  His needs are estimated to cost about £80,000 per year and he is likely to need them for the remainder of his life, so the issue of which Local Authority pays is liable to cost millions.

P’s parents, when he was an adult, moved to Cornwall; who also got dragged into this, despite him never having set a foot in Cornwall until 2004 and only then on a short visit to his parents.  We also add into the mix that accommodation was found for P in Somerset.

 

It is real law-exam stuff.  I wrote about how the High Court resolved it here (back in 2012), and I obviously developed some form of mental scarring as a result, because when the Court of Appeal decision came in, I couldn’t even face looking at it.    (I’ve not sold this link, but if you are a masochist, or you are trying to decide whether to quit law forever and just want something to tip you over the edge, here it is  https://suesspiciousminds.com/2012/12/27/as-clear-as-a-bell-if-the-bell-were-made-out-of-mud/

 

[I’ll assume that you rightly skipped that link]

 

The majority opinion of the House of Lords is that where a Local Authority accommodate a young person, and that person then goes on to require adult services, there’s no break in ordinary residence just because they happened to put him in another area.  The LA who started the case off, keeep hold of the responsibility, even though the case moves from being a child case to an adult case, and moves from one Act to another.

 

54. The question therefore arises whether, despite the broad similarity and obvious underlying purpose of these provisions (namely that an authority should not be able to export its responsibility for providing the necessary accommodation by exporting the person who is in need of it), there is a hiatus in the legislation such that a person who was placed by X in the area of Y under the 1989 Act, and remained until his 18th birthday ordinarily resident in the area of X under the 1989 Act, is to be regarded on reaching that age as ordinarily resident in the area of Y for the purposes of the 1948 Act, with the result that responsibility for his care as an adult is then transferred to Y as a result of X having arranged for his accommodation as a child in the area of Y.

55. It is highly undesirable that this should be so. It would run counter to the policy discernable in both Acts that the ordinary residence of a person provided with accommodation should not be affected for the purposes of an authority’s responsibilities by the location of that person’s placement. It would also have potentially adverse consequences. For some needy children with particular disabilities the most suitable placement may be outside the boundaries of their local authority, and the people who are cared for in some specialist settings may comefrom all over the country. It would be highly regrettable if those who provide specialist care under the auspices of a local authority were constrained in their willingness to receive children from the area of another authority through considerations of the long term financial burden which would potentially follow.

 

That does make a degree of sense.  Firstly, if a Local Authority caring for P as a child, could remove any burden on caring for him as an adult by placing him in another local authority area, then these vulnerable individuals could become subject to a game of pass the parcel (but where you DON’T want to be holding the parcel when the music stops). Secondly, Local Authorities who had made provisions or had specialist facilities in their area for children could end up receiving a higher number of such children and then having to go on to care for them as adults. And thirdly, Local Authorities might jealously guard their borders, not being willing to accommodate children on behalf  of other Local Authorities who might be trying to shift the burden of responsibility in adulthood.

 

The majority opinion therefore concludes

 

59. In other words, it would be wrong to interpret section 24 of the 1948 Act so as to regard PH as having been ordinarily resident in South Gloucestershire by reason of a form of residence whose legal characteristics are to be found in the provisions of the 1989 Act. Since one of the characteristics of that placement is that it did not affect his ordinary residence under the statutory scheme, it would create an unnecessary and avoidable mismatch to treat the placement as having had that effect when it came to the transition in his care arrangements on his 18th birthday.

 

[The Supreme Court do not use this guache term, but in a reductive sense, the law on ordinary residence where a Local Authority places a young person in another area and that young person then needs services as an adult is “He who smelt it, dealt it”]

 

But see Lord Wilson’s stirring dissenting opinion, and it is hard not to disagree with his conclusions. What he says in effect is that the Supreme Court majority opinion is deciding the law not on the basis of a legal interpretation or following precedent, but deciding on which outcome has the better public policy implications.  This is all even better if, like me, you choose to imagine that Lord Wilson has the same speaking voice as John Le Mesurier used for Sergeant Wilson.  (“Are you sure that’s wise, sir?”)

 

I believe that this might be my FOURTH Dad's Army illustration on the blog...

I believe that this might be my FOURTH Dad’s Army illustration on the blog…

 

 

 

62. My colleagues consider that, in making his determination under section 32(3) of the National Assistance Act 1948 (“the 1948 Act”) of the place of PH’s ordinary residence on 26 December 2004 for the purpose of section 24(1) of the same Act, the Secretary of State could lawfully have reached only one conclusion. It is, according to them, that on that date, which was the day prior to his 18th birthday, PH was ordinarily resident in a county (Wiltshire):

a) in which in May 1991, ie about 13 years earlier, he had ceased to live upon his removal to live with the foster parents in South Gloucestershire;

b) to which, during the following 13 years, he never returned, not even just to stay overnight;

c) in which in November 1991, ie also about 13 years earlier, his parents had ceased to live upon their removal to live in Cornwall;

d)in which by 1997, ie about seven years earlier, both sets of his grandparents had, in one case because of relocation and in the other because of death, ceased to live; and

e) in which, from 1997 onwards until many years after 26 December 2004, no home remained available, even in principle, for his occupation.

63. Such is a conclusion to which, with great respect to my colleagues, I do not subscribe. It is a conclusion for which no party has contended at any stage of these proceedings. A court should tread cautiously before favouring a solution devised only by itself, particularly where, as here, it has been addressed by an array of excellent counsel instructed by public authorities widely experienced in this area of the law.

 

Whether you agree with Lord Wilson or not, you have it say that to be able to pour so much information into such a condensed and easy to follow two paragraphs is masterful.

 

He goes on

 

 

 

65. I must squarely confront the problem. There appear to be strong reasons of public policy which militate in favour of imposing upon Wiltshire, rather than upon South Gloucestershire, the obligation of making decisions about a suitable placement of PH following his 18th birthday and of funding whatever placement may thereafter be suitable for him from time to time. It would be a heavy financial burden for Wiltshire but its burden in the case of PH would be borne to the same extent by some other local authority in a reverse situation: in other words the burdens should even out. Public policy suggests:

a) that it is desirable that a local authority which has exercised the decision-making power (and has borne the funding burden) in relation to the placement of a mentally incapacitated minor should, in the light of its knowledge of his needs, continue to exercise that power (and bear that burden) following the attainment of his majority; and

b) that it is undesirable that a local authority which is exercising the decision-making power (and bearing the funding burden) in relation to the placement of an incapacitated minor should, while he remains a minor, be able to place him in a suitable facility in the area of another local authority (indeed, in the case of a private placement, without the consent of that local authority), with the result that, following the attainment of his majority, the decision-making power and, in particular, the financial burden should fall upon that other local authority. In the present case, for example, the evidence suggests that Wiltshire’s placement of PH in 1991 with his excellent specialist foster parents did not in any way involve the local authority of South Gloucestershire, which for the following 13 years appears to have played no part in directing or securing his care. Yet, on my analysis, it is South Gloucestershire which should thereafter have begun to exercise the decision-making power and, in particular, to bear the financial burden. The Secretary of State accepts that, of the young people who move from being looked after by local authorities as minors to being provided with accommodation by them as adults, those lacking capacity are only a small proportion. But he explains convincingly that, in the light of their specialised needs, the cost of maintaining them indefinitely is very high. He proceeds to identify real concerns that a few local authorities might therefore be motivated (to use the crude shorthand which, only for convenience, has been deployed in the hearing before this court) to “export” such a minor to the area of another local authority prior to the attainment of his majority; and equally that, were that other local authority to be the administrator of a specialist resource entirely suitable to the needs of a minor, it might nevertheless be motivated to refuse him admission to it for fear of the financial consequences following the attainment of his majority.

 

66. But such is the result which in my view the law, as it stands, clearly compels. I am not a legislator. Nor, with respect, are my colleagues.

 

Whether the case should be decided on law or public policy  (and I agree with Lord Wilson – if the Supreme Court start to decide cases on what it considers to be the best outcome for public policy then we are on a slippery slope), the Supreme Court have not really considered the real public policy outcome here.

 

If Local Authority A and Local Authority B are arguing about which area is responsible for providing care for little Tommy, then at the moment, they fight like cat and dog about meeting those costs for a maximum of 18 years.  Following this decision, the loser of that argument could, if little Tommy is going to require accommodation throughout his adult life, be stuck with those costs for 80-90 years.

Now, using your skill and judgment, do you think that those arguments will as a result become :-

(a) more amicable; or

(b) more contentious

 

 

 

 

 

 

“All at sea”

 

An imaginary judgment, written in the fevered mind of Suesspicious Minds during a force 8 gale off the coast of Denmark.  (As ever, this is not legal advice, and I have no idea how such a case might develop in reality)

Before Mr Justice Snowater

Before I embark upon my judgment in this unusual and vexing case, I will take a brief detour  – by way of even a preliminary detour I will let you know that “tangent” is my middle name and I say this not by way of boast or hyperbolae but that it is literally true, and I pause for a moment to show the usher my driving licence, and you may take his nod as assurance, for he is a more honest man than even I.

 

Long ago, many scholars and intellectuals were fascinated by the notion that there was a pure language, beyond that of English, French or Flemish, which was the language of God and the Angels, called Enochian. They pondered as to whether a child, unburdened by our own clumsy imitations of this beautiful and radiant language, might naturally speak the language of Angels.

 

This thought experiment was carried out by King James IV of Scotland, who placed two twin babies on the Scottish island of Inchkieth, with a mute housekeeper to tend to their needs, to be visited years later to see what language they spoke. It is reported (perhaps not reliably) that they spoke pure Hebrew.

 

It is alleged by the applicant in this case, the maternal grandmother of the child, a Mrs Wasteland, that the child’s parents have embarked upon an experiment with their own child, not to deprive the child of language but to deprive the child of dry land and that the State should intervene to prevent it.

 

Mr and Mrs Pugwash were residents of England, until such time as they won a considerable sum on the lottery. At that stage, they began banking in Monaco, for reasons which would not be considered inexplicable. They also purchased themselves a luxury yacht and began sailing around the world. They developed a firm feeling amongst themselves that in effect a sailor’s life was for them, hoping perhaps that the mermaids who sang each to each might one day sing to them. They  therefore determined to try to live as much as humanly possible at sea. 

 

Having both considerable means, and staff who could come ashore and shop for them, they found that this was an achievable, rather than a merely fanciful ambition.

 

Bathed as they were both in happiness and the sunsets of the Azores, it is only natural that they became increasingly close, and a baby was conceived in the usual manner.

 

Midwives were brought on board the yacht, and the couple were delivered of a son, J Alfred.

 

That son J is now four years old and has never set foot upon dry land, having spent his entire life on board the yacht, or swimming just nearby.

Mrs Wasteland, his maternal grandmother, has sought to have contact with J, but the parents have declined to come ashore to allow this. She says that they are thwarting her relationship with J and subjecting him to emotional harm by not allowing him to live on land, or even to have a temporary visit on land. They in turn say that Mrs Wasteland is welcome to come aboard the yacht (for short periods) to visit J. She has declined, being a lady who suffers profoundly from sea-sickness.

 

Representing the grandmother, Mr Raymond Luxury QC, set out admirably the concerns that she holds about the unusual lifestyle for a boy being raised entirely at sea, and invites the Court to make a section 37 direction, compelling the responsible local authority to prepare a report setting out whether J is being harmed in any way and whether public law proceedings should be issued. He invites the Court to make some preliminary findings in relation to significant harm.

 

Mr Luxury says, inter alia

 

(i)            There will be consequences in socialisation, education and physical fitness

 

(ii)          The unknown health implications of spending ones entire childhood at sea , impact on sleep patterns, balance, inner ear development and what he describes loosely as ‘seafarers fatigue’  http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/58/3/198.full      He accepts that the risk of scurvy is fairly low, given the parents wealth and resources

 

(iii)         The unknown psychological effects, such as lack of space, monotony, living in close proximity to others http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu/ike/canoe_living/effects.html

 

(iv)         The risk of mal de debarquement    (which candidly, I suspect Mr Luxury QC snuck into his submissions purely to pique my interest, but is a form of long-term illness with the effects that one encounters in the days following leaving a cruise, long airflight or other sustained motion event, but that do not subside)

 

(v)          The inevitable adjustment that J would have to make to a life ashore in adulthood, which may impair his opportunities in life.

 

In broad terms on threshold, Mr Mangrove for the parents, says, with some merit, that if growing up on your millionaire parents luxury yacht is deprivation and neglect, our court rooms are going to be very busy indeed.

 

For the parents part however, the substantial case is one of jurisdiction.

 

Mr Mangrove, representing them, says that before any issues of significant harm can properly be dissected, there are issues of jurisdiction to consider.

 

These are the broad facts :-

 

  1. The parents reside entirely on their yacht, as does J.
  2. The parents have a firm intention to continue to do so.
  3. They have no intention to reside in any town, village or hamlet of the British Isles.
  4. The yacht moves around frequently, it is around Britain for just under three months of the year. The Captain’s log makes that clear.
  5. On the occasions when the yacht is moored in England, it does so in different ports or harbours and has not, during the entireity of J’s life, been moored in the same Local Authority area for longer than one consecutive night.

 

Mr Mangrove therefore pleads :-

 

1. Using the guidance in Shah   [Barnet LBC v Shah 1983 2 AC 309]  ordinary residence refers to a person’s “abode in a particular place or country which he has adopted voluntarily and for settled purposes as part of the regular order of his life for the time being, whether of short or of long duration”.

 

2. The ordinary residence of a child is that of his parents In Re: J (A Minor) (Abduction: Custody Rights) [1990] 2 A.C. 562, 579:

“… where a child of J.’s age [about 3 years old] is in the sole lawful custody of her mother, his situation with regard to habitual residence will necessarily be the same as hers.”

3.    These parents have no settled intention to live in England, and do not do so. Even the dreaded taxman has accepted that the parents do not live in England.

4.    It is accepted by Mr Mangrove that were the parents to be living in their yacht, moored more or less permanently in one location, they would be rightly said to be ordinarily resident there pace John Reeves v Randy Northrop [2013] EWCA Civ 362  [which, going off at yet another tangent, is a beautiful judgment ending very poetically  http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/362.html  ]

5.    Mr Mangrove thus says, with considerable force, that if J does not live in England or Wales, and I must be driven to that conclusion on the evidence, then the Children Act 1989 has as much application to him as it does a child living in Swaziland, and thus the application for a section 8 contact order, and the request for a section 37 direction, and the proceedings themselves, should be dismissed.

 

I sought further clarification on this point.

It arises from section 2 of the Family Law Act 1986

The English Court has jurisdiction under the Children Act 1989 in respect of a child IF 

 

(a)  Brussels II applies

(b)  If on the ‘relevant date’  (when the application was made) the child was habitually resident in England and Wales OR has no habitual residence in England or Wales BUT was present in England or Wales

 

From the ships log, I ascertain that on the date when Mrs Wasteland made her application, the yacht was in Helsinki, which unless Mr Raymond Luxury QC has the benefit of some very old (but still standing) treaties following wars which makes Helsinki a territory of the UK, is not in England or Wales.

Although Mr Pugwash has reluctantly come ashore to deal with these matters, the yacht itself and J, are not in English waters at present.

Brussels II makes it plain that the presence of the child must not be in any way temporary or intermittent  {Re A (Area of Freedom Security and Justice 2009 2 FLR 1}   and if I had been in any doubt, that would have settled the matter.

Given that Brussels II deals with habitual residence in the member state or presence in the member state, and I find that on the facts of this case, J Alfred Pugwash was neither, it must therefore be the case that I have no jurisdiction to make a section 8 order, or a section 37 direction, or to continue hearing this case, as delightful as it would be to maintain a hold on it.

 

By way of consolation, with this judgment, I am handing to Mr Raymond Luxury QC two items to be passed to his client. The first is a sachet of Dramamine, which I understood is very good for sea-sickness. The second is a copy of Italo Calvino’s novella, The Baron in the Trees, a particular favourite of mine, involving a tenacious young lad, Cosimo, who vows to live his entire life in trees and to never set foot upon the ground again. As I recall, it worked out rather pleasantly for all concerned.

 

To the parents, and to young J, I bid them good luck on their voyages, and that they continue to dare to disturb the universe.

 

As clear as a bell (if the bell were made out of mud)

The High Court helps out yet again, on ordinary residence issues, between Local Authorities, with head-scratching results. I think I finally get it, though it took three reads of the judgment.  In the words of Bertie Wooster,  “the slight throbbing about the temples told me that this discussion had reached saturation point.”

 

Suesspicious Minds accepts no liability for any such throbbing about the temples in the reader who attempts this judgment. 

This happened in the case of  Cornwall Council v Secretary of State for Health and others 2012

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/3739.html

 

This time, it relates to an adult with profound difficulties, who was owed duties by the State under the National Assistance Act 1948 to provide him with accommodation and services to meet those complex needs. The issue was, which precise bit of the State, and more importantly, which local authorities local taxpayers were about to shell out a huge wedge of cash on a person who had very little whatsoever to do with them.

 

The duty of course, is owed by that Local Authority in which the person is ordinarily resident, but in adult cases, that test of ordinary residence comes with a settled intention on the person’s part to live or settle there.  Where the person lacks capacity to form such intention, problems arise.

 

The various local authorities involved went to the Secretary of State for a determination, under section 32 (3) of the National Assistance Act 1948.

 

The Secretary of State looked at the case, and determined that this adult, who was not physically living in Cornwall,  was not accommodated in Cornwall, had no home in Cornwall and visited his parents in Cornwall two or three times per year, was the responsibility of Cornwall. 

 

Unsurprisingly, Cornwall didn’t like that much, and challenged it by way of judicial review.  It does seem manifestly crackers that a council’s taxpayers can be obliged to fork out upkeep for an adult who has never lived in their area, is never going to live in their area and whose sole connection with it is that his parents live there.

 

Cornwall  felt, that Wiltshire, who had accommodated this adult in 1991, when he and his parents had been living in Wiltshire, and had been looking after him ever since, were the authority who had ordinary residence.  From 1991 to 2004, he had been living with foster parents in Wiltshire; but then when he became an adult was provided with residential care in a third local authority’s area, South Gloucestershire. By that time, the adults parents had moved to Cornwall.

 

Cornwall, Wilshire, South Gloucestershire and Somerset (who, I think) were the local authority whose area this adult might be moving to in the future, had different ideas about who was the local authority responsible for providing care for this adult for the remainder of his days.  Though I suspect they all expressed it in broadly the same way “Wherever this person is ordinarily resident, it isn’t in my area”

 

 

I am afraid that the discussion within the judgment is eye-wateringly complex, but shakes down to this, at its heart, deriving from R v Waltham Forest LBC, ex p. Vale, 25 February 1985.

 

Taylor J set out two approaches, which are referred to as “test 1” and “test 2” in the Departmental Guidance. “Test 1” applies where the person is so severely handicapped as to be totally dependent upon a parent or guardian. Taylor J stated that such a person (in that case it was a 28 year old woman) is in the same position as a small child and her ordinary residence is that of her parents or guardian “because that is her base”. The second approach, “test 2” considers the question as if the person is of normal mental capacity, taking account of all the facts of the person’s case, including physical presence in a particular place and the nature and purpose of that presence as outlined in Shah, but without requiring the person himself or herself to have adopted the residence voluntarily

 

 

So, if the person has capacity, one looks, in the traditional Shah sense, of whether they have made a settled intention to live somewhere (even if that is not where they are physically living), and it would not have been Cornwall.

 

But, where they don’t, even though they are an adult, the Court treats them as a small child, and ordinary residence is where the parent of that person lives.

 

(Even if the adult were 50 and the parents were 80, one assumes)

 

Using my traditional loophole lawyer mind, I’m troubled as to how the Court resolve the issue of ordinary residence here where an adult’s parents are deceased, or live separately to one another in two different local authorities.

 

 

 

For the purposes of the case, the important arguments were in the fourth ground for JR, that Vale was now overtaken by subsequent decisions and the Mental Capacity Act, and that it was no longer the right test for deciding cases of this kind.  And that physical presence, rather than the physical location of the parents of an adult with capacity issues, was a more important factor in determining ordinary residence.

 

If you don’t want to slog to the end of this very law-heavy paragraph, and I honestly could not blame you – the upshot is that the High Court think the Secretary of State is right, Vale remains good law, Cornwall got well and truly hosed.   The underlined passage is probably why.

 

 

 

  1. iv) Ground 4:
  1. I turn to ground 4, the challenge to the approach in Vale’s case based on the submissions that there is a conflict between the tests in that case and those set out by the House of Lords in Shah’s case and in Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC and that the approach has been overtaken by the approach to mental incapacity in the Mental Health Act 2005. In his reply, Mr Lock also submitted that Vale’s case is not authority for the proposition that, after thirteen years first with foster parents and then in two care homes, PH’s “ordinary residence” at the relevant time was that of his parents and follows their ordinary residence because they continue to take an interest in his welfare.
  1. The starting point in considering Mr Lock’s submissions is the acknowledgment by Lord Scarman in Shah’s case (see [1983] 2 AC at 343G-H) that the statutory framework or the legal context in which the words “ordinary residence” are used may require a different meaning to that in his “canonical definition”. The context before the court in that case was entitlement to a mandatory grant for fees and maintenance for students pursuing a course of study leading to a first degree or comparable course of further education. To be so entitled, they had to be “ordinarily resident” in the United Kingdom throughout the three years preceding the first year of the course. The key concepts in Lord Scarman’s definition (set out at [6]) are that the residence must be “voluntarily” adopted and that it must be for “settled purposes”. Lord Scarman stated that these are the two ways in which the mind of the individual concerned is important in determining ordinary residence: see [1983] AC at 344. As Mr Harrop-Griffiths observed, in the light of the facts of Shah’s case, it was hardly surprising that Lord Scarman did not seek to explain how the test he stated could, if necessary, be adapted in the case of an incapacitated person. What is clear, however, is that a test which accords a central role to the intention of the person whose “ordinary residence” is to be determined cannot be applied without adaptation when considering the position of a person who does not have the capacity to decide where to live.
  1. The other case on which Mr Lock relied, Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC was also not concerned with a person who lacked capacity. Moreover, it was not concerned with the term “ordinary residence” but with the term “normal residence” in sections 198, 199 and 202 of the Housing Act 1996. M was a homeless person who had lived as the guest of a friend in Hammersmith for two and a half months. After being reunited with his wife, the couple applied to the Hammersmith and Fulham Council for assistance with accommodation. In July 1998 the Council determined that neither the applicant nor his wife had any local connection with Hammersmith but, as the wife had a local connection with Ealing by reason of her several years of residence there, their application was referred to the local housing authority for Ealing.
  1. The question for the court was whether the Hammersmith and Fulham Council had erred in not taking into account the period spent by M when living in its area as the guest of his friend. It was held that it had. Interim accommodation within the area of the Council could constitute “normal residence” for the purpose of section 199(1)(a) and thus be evidence of a local connection. Lord Slynn of Hadley stated (at [17]) that where a person in fact has no “normal residence” at a particular time, the term is to be given the same meaning as “ordinarily resident” in Shah’s case, and (see ibid at [18]) that “the prima facie meaning of normal residence is a place where, at the relevant time, the person in fact resides”. He continued:

“That therefore is the question to be asked, and it is not appropriate to consider whether, in a general or abstract sense, such a place would be considered an ordinary or normal residence. So long as that place where he eats and sleeps is voluntarily accepted by him, the reason why he is there rather than somewhere else must not prevent that place from being his normal residence. He may not like it, he may prefer some other place, but that place is, for the relevant time, the place where he normally resides.”

  1. Mr Lock gains some support from Lord Slynn’s statement that the term “normal residence” is to be given the same meaning as “ordinarily residence”. But it is limited support. Apart from the differences of statutory context and terminology, Lord Slynn stated the term “normal residence” is only to be given the same meaning as “ordinarily residence” where, at the relevant time, the person in fact has no “normal residence”. The test is thus a surrogate because the person in fact had no “normal residence”. It is, indeed, a surrogate which accorded an important role to intention. Lord Slynn’s reference to the need for the person to “voluntarily accept” the place where he eats and sleeps, suggests that physical presence was used as an indication of what the person voluntarily wanted and it was that which could constitute a local link. Moreover, the factual circumstances included a number of features pointing to a strong attraction to the borough in which M was physically present. They included the presence of relatives in the borough and the need for medical treatment which was being provided by a hospital in the borough. It would appear that physical presence is insufficient in itself and that what is required is an underlying attachment.
  1. Mr Lock also relied on R (Hertfordshire CC) v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 77 and R (Sunderland CC) v South Tyneside C [2012] EWCA Civ 1232, two cases about the meaning of the term “resident” in section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983. The Hertfordshire case is of limited assistance because there was no evidence that JM lacked capacity: see [2010] EWHC 562 (Admin) per Mitting J at [5] and [8] and [2011] EWCA Civ 77 per Carnwath LJ at [8]. In the Sunderland case Lloyd LJ stated (at [26]) that, in understanding the meaning of the term “resident” in the 1983 Act, he did not find it helpful to consider cases in which “ordinary residence” in other legislation has been construed. Similarly, I do not find the cases on the term “resident” of assistance in construing the term “ordinary residence” in the 1948 Act.
  1. I therefore turn to Vale‘s case. It was the first case in which the determination of the “ordinary residence” of an incapacitated person fell for decision. For the reasons I have given, I do not consider that the approaches set out by Taylor J in it are “inconsistent” with the approach in either Shah‘s case or Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC. Is it, however, outdated or flawed in some other way?
  1. On examination, the facts and the judgment of Taylor J show that what are referred to as “Test 1” and “Test 2” in the Departmental Guidance are not rules of law but two approaches to the circumstances of a particular case. Both involve questions of fact and degree, although Test 2 may be thought to do so to a greater degree.
  1. Vale‘s case concerned Judith, a 28 year old woman who lacked the mental capacity to decide where to live. She was born in London but her parents moved to Dublin in 1961, when she was five. She was placed in residential care in the Republic of Ireland. In 1978, when she was 22, her parents moved back to England with their other children to an address in the area of Waltham Forest. Judith remained at a home for the mentally handicapped in Ireland, but visited her parents two or three times a year. In May 1984, she returned to England to her parents’ address. In anticipation of her return her parents, who wanted to place Judith in a suitable home, sought assistance from Waltham Forest LBC. After her arrival, a placement was found at a home in Stoke Poges, in Buckinghamshire. The DHSS agreed to meet the major part of the cost. Waltham Forest refused to make up the shortfall on the ground that Judith had not been a resident in the borough, but had transferred from a residential placement in Ireland where her need for residential accommodation arose.
  1. After considering Shah‘s case, Taylor J stated that, where a person’s learning difficulties were so severe as to render them totally dependent on a parent or guardian “the concept of her having an independent ordinary residence of her own which she has adopted voluntarily and for which she has a settled purpose does not arise”. He identified two alternative approaches to the determination of where such a person is ordinarily resident. Where a person is so severely handicapped as to be totally dependent upon a parent or guardian, he stated that she is in the same position as a small child and her ordinary residence is that of her parents or guardian “because that is her base”. This (see [24(8) – (9)] is referred to as Test 1 in the Departmental Guidance.
  1. Taylor J stated that the alternative approach (which the Departmental Guidance refers to as Test 2) is to consider the question as if the person is of normal mental capacity. He considered where the person was in fact residing and the purpose of such residence. He stated that Judith was residing “with her parents for the settled purpose of being looked after and having her affairs managed as part of the regular order of her life for the time being” and “until it was possible to obtain funding for her to go” to the home in Stoke Poges. He stated that there was no other address at which she could have been ordinarily resident, that Shah’s case required future intent to be left out of account, and that Judith could not be regarded as a squatter in her parents’ home. The Departmental Guidance (paragraph 34, summarised at [24(10)]) rationalised what he had said about this second alternative thus:- “all the facts of a person’s case should be considered, including physical presence in a particular place and the nature and purpose of that presence as outlined in Shah, but without requiring the person themselves to have adopted the residence voluntarily”.
  1. Vale‘s case was decided two months after the decision of the House of Lords in Shah‘s case. It was the first case in which the approach to the determination of the “ordinary residence” of an incapacitated person fell for decision. It was applied by Potts J in R v Redbridge LBC, ex p. East Sussex CC [1993] COD 256, and considered without disapproval by Charles J in R (Greenwich LBC) v Secretary of State [2006] EWHC 2576 (Admin) and the Court of Appeal in R (Hertfordshire CC) v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 77 at [41] (Carnwath LJ). Central government and local authorities have placed significant reliance on it in formulating guidance.
  1. In these circumstances there needs to be a good reason to replace it and a satisfactory alternative approach. Cornwall‘s case is that primacy should be given to physical presence. It is, however, important not to accord insufficient weight to the fact that Parliament chose the concept of “ordinary residence” as opposed to “residence”, to the difference between those concepts, and to the other factors which are of relevance in determining “ordinary residence”.
  1. It is clear from the cases, including Shah’s case and Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC, that physical presence is not sufficient to constitute “ordinary residence” but the implication of Mr Lock’s submissions is that it is a necessary requirement. He relied on Holman J’s statement in North Yorkshire CC v Wiltshire CC [1999] Fam. 323 at 333 that it is “wholly artificial to regard a child as continuing to be ordinarily resident in an area in which neither he nor his family continues actually to reside and to which neither expects to return”. In PH’s case that has been the position since May 2012, but it was not the position in December 2004. At that time PH’s parents lived in Cornwall, there was a physical presence by him in the county during his visits. Indeed, as it happened, PH was physically present in Cornwall on the day before his eighteenth birthday, although I disregard that fortuitous circumstance as of no significance to the determination of the question before me. However, his parents were much involved in the arrangements for his care and took an active and continuing interest in him, and that is a relevant factor.
  1. At this stage it is instructive to consider the two first instance cases in which Vale’s case has been considered. The first is R v Redbridge LBC, ex p. East Sussex CC , 21 December 1992, of which I only have the summary of the judgment in the Crown Office Digest: [1993] COD 168. The father of handicapped autistic twins, who lived in Haringey, placed them at a residential school in East Sussex. Four years later in 1986 the twins’ parents moved to the area of Redbridge LBC and sought assistance from the council. In 1987 Redbridge informed the father that, pending a statutory assessment, it would accept responsibility for the education of the twins, then aged fifteen. In January 1989 the residential school informed Redbridge that it would be closing on 17 March 1989.On 2 March Redbridge learned that the twins’ parents had sold their house in Redbridge and left this country to live in Nigeria in December 1988, and, on 10 March, Redbridge informed East Sussex of the impending closure of the school, the parents’ return to Nigeria, and that it considered that the statutory responsibility for the twins lay on East Sussex. As the twins were in urgent need of assistance and were in its area, East Sussex provided emergency respite care under the National Health Act 1977, but instituted judicial review proceedings contending that the duty to provide for the twins under the 1948 Act lay on Redbridge. There appears to have been no consideration of responsibility under the Children Act 1989.
  1. Potts J held that the duty under the 1948 Act fell on East Sussex. The summary in the Crown Office Digest states that he held that the twins were ordinarily resident in Redbridge until December 1988 because they were so mentally handicapped as to be totally dependent on their parents, and because Redbridge was their base. However, after their parents left and the family house was sold, they had no settled residence, were physically present in East Sussex, and were in urgent need of care. East Sussex was (see [23]) the “local authority of the moment” and, as such, the duty fell on it. The summary does not state whether the twins had ever visited their parents in Redbridge before the parents returned to Nigeria. It refers to Redbridge seeking to contact the parents in December 1988 about funding a holiday placement, and to the fact that the parents left for Nigeria without informing Redbridge. These factors suggest that there may have been only little contact between the parents and the twins, even in the school holidays, before that time. Nevertheless, their parents’ house in Redbridge was stated to be their base.
  1. The second case is R (Greenwich LBC) v Secretary of State[2006] EWHC 2576 (Admin). D, an elderly woman who lived in the area of Bexley LBC moved into a care home in Bexley. Her means were such that she and her family were responsible for the costs of her care, and her home was sold to provide funding for this. After about a year, it was decided that it was no longer appropriate for D to remain at that home because she needed to be in a EMI nursing home or in NHS care. She was placed in a nursing home in the area of Greenwich LBC. Four weeks and five days later, on 29 June 2002 her capital had fallen to the point that responsibility for her care fell on the appropriate local authority. There was a dispute between Greenwich and Bexley and they referred the matter to the Secretary of State. He determined that, although the move to the home in Greenwich was facilitated by Bexley, it was D’s family and not Bexley who placed her there. The question was where she was ordinarily resident on the date when her available capital fell below the relevant financial cap. The Secretary of State decided that it was Greenwich. After considering the authorities, including Vale‘s case, Charles J stated (at [72]):

“Habitual or ordinary residence is in each case a question of fact. The temptation to turn it into an abstract proposition should be resisted. Habitual or ordinary residence is not equivalent to physical presence. There can be ordinary or habitual residence without continuous presence, while physical presence is not necessarily equivalent to residence. Residence means living somewhere. The significance of ordinary or habitually is that it connotes residence adopted voluntarily and for settled purposes. That was the point emphasised before me and appears clearly from Shah. Although ordinary in one place can be lost immediately, acquisition of a new ordinary residence requires an appreciable period of time. The length of the appreciable period of time is not fixed, since it depends on the nature and quality of the connection with the new place. However, it may only be a few weeks, perhaps, in some circumstances, even days. In order to establish ordinary residence over a period of time a person must spend more than a token part of that period in the place in question. Ordinary residence is not broken by temporary or occasional absences of long or short duration. …”

  1. Charles J thus regarded “ordinary residence” as involving questions of fact and degree, and factors such as time, intention and continuity, each of which were to be given a different weight according to the context: see [73]. He also stated (see [74]) that the fact that the individual in that case did not have an existing right to reside at a place in Bexley on the relevant date is a significant factor to be taken into account, but “is not determinative of the issue”. Mr Lock’s submissions in effect suggested that PH could not be ordinarily resident in Cornwall because he did not have the “right” to reside at his natural parents’ home. Although certain passages in the Secretary of State’s determination in the Greenwich case might be understood to suggest that the Secretary of State regarded the absence of a place available in Bexley as determinative, Charles J stated (see [85]) that, on its true interpretation, the determination stated that, given all the factors that had to be taken into account, the key factor was that the individual did not in fact have anywhere to live in Bexley any longer, and was actually living in Greenwich, and that the factors that fell for consideration did not outweigh the force to be given to those points in determining her ordinary residence.
  1. Drawing the threads together, “ordinary residence” is a question of fact and degree, and if the Secretary of State gets the law right, the determination of a person’s ordinary residence is for the Secretary of State, subject only to Wednesbury unreasonableness. In the present case PH’s connections with Cornwall differed from Judith’s connections with Waltham Forest in Vale’s case. In one sense PH’s connections were more transitory because Judith had come to stay with her parents in Waltham Forest until appropriate arrangements were made for her whereas by December 2004 arrangements had been made for PH to be placed in a home in Somerset. But, in North Yorkshire CC v Wiltshire CC [1999] Fam. 323 at 334 Holman J stated that “the court is entitled to take into account matters other than where [the person himself or] herself was living during the specified period, and Potts J in R v Redbridge LBC, ex p. East Sussex CC .did not appear to have placed any weight on whether there was a physical presence by the twins in Redbridge during the period in which the court found they were ordinarily resident there.
  1. In deciding whether PH’s base was at the home of his natural parents, the Secretary of State applied the Vale Test 1 in a fact-sensitive way. Although not determinative of the legality of his decision, he did so in a similar way to that presented in “scenario 2” in paragraph 158 of the Departmental Guidance: which is summarised in the Appendix to this judgment.
  1. The Secretary of State examined (see determination, paragraphs 23-24, set out at [46]) whether there was a real relationship between PH and his natural parents and whether they were in fact making relevant decisions. He was entitled to take account of that and (see determination, paragraph 25) of the “entirety of the relationship between [PH] and his parents”. As part of that, he was also entitled to take account of the time spent by PH with them in Cornwall.
  1. It is also clear that the Secretary of State took account of the approach in section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In considering the approach of PH’s family, he concluded that they viewed contact with PH in terms of what was in his best interests.
  1. The process of determining that PH was ordinarily resident in Cornwall may appear artificial. There would, however, have been a similar artificiality in determining that he was ordinarily resident in any of the other counties under consideration. The Secretary of State gave reasons for concluding that PH could not be considered ordinarily resident in Wiltshire at the relevant time: see paragraph 22 of the determination, which is set out at [46] above. Those reasons and that approach are in line and consistent with the decision of the Court of Appeal in Re D (a child) (care order: designated local authority) [2012] EWCA Civ 627.
  1. In D‘s case it was held that the “disregard” principle in section 105(6) of the 1989 Act did not apply when the ordinary residence of a sixteen year old mother had to be determined for the purpose of determining the ordinary residence of her baby. Elias LJ stated:

“[the mother] is treated as though she has two hats; she is a mother whose ordinary residence must be determined by common law principles when that concept is relevant for the purpose of determining her child’s ordinary residence for any purpose under the 1989 Act; but she is a child whose ordinary residence is modified by section 105(6) when it comes to determining her own place of ordinary residence for any purpose under that Act”. (at [45]).

The reasoning summarised in paragraph 22 of the Secretary of State’s determination represents the application of those common law principles.

  1. As to South Gloucestershire, for the reasons I have given in [66], by the relevant date it was clear that PH was only in South Gloucestershire on a very temporary basis and the settled intention required to establish “ordinary residence” could not be imputed to him. Finally, as to Somerset, although it was planned that he would move there shortly afterwards, at the relevant date he had never lived in that county. Shah‘s case required future intent to be left out of account.
  1. For these reasons, I have concluded that the Secretary of State’s determination that PH had, as his “base” his parents’ home as at the date of his eighteenth birthday, and hence was ordinarily resident in Cornwall was one that was properly open to him. Accordingly this application is dismissed.

 

Designation’s what you need (or how to duck your responsibilities)

A discussion of Derbyshire County Council v HM 2011, and why it is important for Local Authority lawyers.

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed101199

It is a sad case – a mother of two children went into a coma. Southwark, who were the responsible authority at the time, tried to find family members to look after the children. They were looking at some relatives in America, but as a holding position, the children went to stay with a great-aunt Ms A in Derbyshire.

For one reason or another, the placement in America didn’t pan out, and Ms A kept the children, and subsequently sought a residence order. The mother, by this stage, had sadly passed on.

A section 37 report was directed, and then Southwark and Derbyshire had the time-honoured and traditional bust up about who was responsible.

21. There is no dispute as to the law which I must apply.   Pursuant to section 31(1) of the Children Act 1989, a care order (or an interim care order) must be made in favour of a “designated local authority”.   Section 31(8) deals with the principles to be applied.  The designated authority must be (a) the authority within whose area the child is ordinarily resident; or (b) where the child does not reside in the area of a local authority, the authority within whose area any circumstances arose in consequence of which the order is being made. 

22. Following the decision of the Court of Appeal in Northamptonshire CC v Islington LBC [1999] 3 FCR 385, the test under s31(8) is a two stage test.  I must first seek to identify if the children are ordinarily resident in any local authority area and, if so, designate that authority.  If, and only if, I am satisfied that the children are not resident in any local authority area, I must then consider the s31(8)(b) test. 

On that basis, the children hadn’t lived in Southwark for two years, and had lived in Derbyshire for that time. They had ordinary residence in Derbyshire.

But then, the ‘stop the clock provisions’ come into play. If the ordinary residence in Derbyshire came about because Southwark were looking after the children and placed them in Derbyshire, then Southwark would retain responsibility, even though the children were physically in Derbyshire.

And if you’re scratching your head and saying “eh?” that may explain why there’s so much law on this issue.  There are two methods by which the placement with Ms A could have come about.  (a) Southwark were looking after the children under 23 (2) and placed with Ms A, who would be a foster carer  (note, Southwark don’t have to mean to do this, it can come about by them inadvertently doing it)  or (b) Southwark used their duties and powers under s23(6) to find family members who could care for the children and thus avoid them being looked after.

25. The local authority had to discharge its duties in accordance with section 23.  At the time, there were two sections that were relevant.  Section 23(2) provided that “a local authority shall provide accommodation and maintenance for any child they are looking after by (a) placing him…with (i) a family; (ii) a relative of his; or (iii) any suitable person, on such terms as to payment and otherwise as the authority may determine…(f) making such other arrangements as (i) seem appropriate to them; and (ii) comply with any regulations made by the Secretary of State.”  Section 23(6), however, provided that “Subject to any regulations made by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection, any local authority looking after a child shall make arrangements to enable him to live with – …. (b) a relative, friend or other person connected with him, unless that would not be reasonably practicable or consistent with his welfare.”  

26. It is accepted that the court is bound by a line of authorities culminating in the Court of Appeal decision in R (SA; a child by SH as litigation friend) v Kent County Council [2011] EWCA Civ 1303; The Times 6th November 2011.  Section 23(2) and section 23(6) are two distinct routes by which the local authority can discharge its duties under section 20(1).  The court must determine whether the local authority was exercising its statutory powers under s23(2) or facilitating the making of private arrangements under s23(6).  If Southwark was acting pursuant to s23(6), the children ceased to be looked after children and s105(6) ceased to apply.  If, however, the placement was under s23(2), the children remained looked after by Southwark.

27. The decision is a factual question on the basis of the evidence before the court.  Smith LJ did, however, say in D v LB of Southwark [2007] EWCA Civ 182 at Paragraph 52 that, where a local authority seeks to divest itself of its obligation and requires someone else to do so (by placement under s23(6) rather than under s23(2)), it would need to be very clear that this was its intention

Or in short, the Court looks at whether something that might be a s23(2) or s23(6) placement to see if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck (a s23(2) foster placement),  and if they are not to conclude that it is a duck, there must be reasons why not and the LA must be really clear and upfront with everyone involed that this WAS NOT A DUCK.

In this case, the Court concluded that Southwark had done enough to show that it had placed under s23(6) and was thus not responsible for the children; even though a lot of the evidence was self-serving  (i.e that it was Southwark saying loudly and often “This isn’t a duck, this isn’t a duck”)  and this is why the case is important – it shows a route map to protect yourself in a Southwark situation

28. Having considered the evidence in this case carefully, I am quite satisfied that Southwark was indeed facilitating the making of private arrangements under s23(6) rather than looking after the children pursuant to s23(2).  I have come to this conclusion for numerous reasons but it is clear to me that any reasonable bystander would undoubtedly have concluded that Southwark was shedding its legal responsibility (Paragraph 59 of D v Southwark).  Other than the original agreement, there is no respect in which it could be said that these were looked after children.  In particular:-

(a) After the placement with the As, Southwark played no role whatsoever in supervising the As or “looking after” the children;

(b) In a handwritten letter, the father authorised Mr and Mrs A to “take decisions relating to (the children’s) urgent medical and health needs and give consent to medical procedures…”;

(c) Southwark paid absolutely nothing to Mr and Mrs A (not even a “kinship allowance”);

(d) When the father approached Southwark on 1st March 2010 and 4th June 2010, Southwark said the children were not an open case;

(e) Southwark’s letter to the father’s solicitor on 31st March 2010, stated that this was a private family arrangement and Southwark had not been providing on-going services/intervention to the family;

(f)  On 26th August 2010, Southwark wrote to Derbyshire legal services stating that “this was a family placement between the respective maternal and paternal families”; although Southwark agreed to undertake an assessment of the father because he was living in its area, the letter is clear that as the children were in Derbyshire’s area, Derbyshire had a duty towards them as children in need;

(g) In Southwark’s letter to the As dated 25th October 2010, Southwark repeats that this was a family arrangement and a private family matter.

29. I accept that the original agreement dated 28th August 2009 imposed obligations on the As but I consider that the factors that I outline in Paragraph 28 above make clear the real nature of the arrangement.  The terms of the agreement reached constituted the arrangements to enable the children to be cared for by the As pursuant to s23(6) rather than for the children to be placed by the Local Authority in accordance with s23(2). 

30. I recognise entirely that some of the evidence relied on by Southwark in support of this conclusion is self-serving.  It could be said that it is not particularly attractive for Southwark to rely on matters such as its own failure to pay allowances.  Nevertheless, this is the factual background and I find it impossible to say that s105(6) is engaged.

So, if you’re in a Southwark situation, you need to shout from the rooftops that this is a s23(6) placement and not a looked after child. Say it loud, say it proud.

If you’re in a Derbyshire position, you’d better shout just as loud that this is a looked after child, so that there’s something to weigh on the other side, and explore with the family exactly what they were told at the time.