Short-form age assessments: a cautionary note for local authorities

15 November 2023

Joshua Swirsky reminds local authorities conducting short-form age assessments to spell out their reasons for finding that an applicant is an adult.

Following R(HAM) v LB Brent (in which Joshua acted for the successful local authority), the local authority in R(LF) v Birmingham Children's Trust had conducted an abbreviated age assessment of a young asylum-seeker. Joshua also represents the local authority in this case.

Permission granted for judicial review

Even though he said the claimant's case was weak because she had admitted to the Home Office that she was an adult, the judge granted permission for judicial review of the local authority decision. The 2 age assessors had formed the view quickly that they were dealing with an adult.

The judge felt that permission should be granted because there were insufficient reasons given for the decision based on appearance in the brief decision, unlike the Home Office decision. Because the case was weak, interim relief was refused despite the grant of permission.

The lesson seems to be that while a brief decision in an obvious case is acceptable, the decision should nonetheless contain reasons which explain why the decision was made.