On appeal from: [2017] EWCA Civ 26

This appeal considered the lawfulness of the accommodation of the appellants’ children by the respondent under the Children Act 1989, s 20.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal, holding that the appellants did not object or unequivocally request the immediate return of the children, and therefore the children’s continued accommodation under s 20 had a lawful basis.

The Court considered that the s 20 arrangements replaced the compulsory police protection under s 46 without the children returning home in the meantime; however the focus was not on the appellants’ delegation of parental responsibility to the Council, but on their rights under ss 20(7) and 20(8). The Local Authority’s arrangements made under s 20 are voluntary as, under s 20(7), a person with parental responsibility for the child, who is willing and able to provide accommodation for him or arrange for accommodation for him, may object, and under s 20(8) ‘any person who has parental responsibility for a child may at any time remove the child from accommodation provided by or on behalf of the local authority under this section’. The Court held that, in the instant case, the letters from the appellants’ solicitors could not be read as an objection or as a request for immediate return: the solicitors were sensibly trying to achieve the return of the children as quickly as possible on a collaborative basis rather than push the Council into issuing care proceedings. Therefore, there was a lawful basis for the children’s continued accommodation under s 20 and the ground relied on by the judge for finding a breach of the appellants’ ECHR, art 8 rights was not made out.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 37
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (14 Feb 2018 morning session) (14 Feb 2018 afternoon session) (15 Feb 2018 morning session) (15 Feb 2018 afternoon session)