Seeking Definition of the Word "Walking"

Friday 9 April 2010

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Garden Court Barrister to take case to Court of Appeal.

Desmond Rutledge, a tenant at Garden Court Chambers, has been granted leave to appeal in the case of Raminder Sandhu v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (CI/2009/2281); a case which hinges on the legal definition of the verb "to walk".

Mr. Sandhu was run down by a car in May 2008; as a result of the injuries sustained, he spent 17 days in hospital, and his right leg had to be completely reconstructed in a series of operations. He had been told by his consultant that it would be 18 months before he could reasonably expect a return to full mobility. Mr. Sandhu applied for the mobility component at the higher rate of disability living allowance based on his lack of mobility.

The Department for Work & Pensions turned down his claim, on the ground that he was able to 'walk'. In order to qualify for the mobility component at the higher rate the rules require that the claimant is "unable to walk or virtually unable to walk". When Mr Sandhu appealed to a tribunal it found that he was capable of using his "crutches for balance and could manage a distance of 50 yards without severe discomfort before pausing but would manage a distance of at least 200 yards before he had to stop because the exertion caused him breathlessness." The tribunal's conclusion that he was not thereby 'virtually unable to walk' was upheld by an Upper Tribunal Judge (CDLA/855/2009).

Mr.Sandhu's application for permission to appeal was initially rejected - but at a renewal hearing on March 15th 2010, Sir Scott-Baker said he was convinced by a "persuasive submission" from Desmond Rutledge.

As mentioned above, Mr.Sandhu can propel himself with difficulty, over short distances - to do so, Mr.Sandhu cannot put any weight on his right leg and is forced to use his upper body strength to propel himself on his crutches. Mr. Rutledge has submitted that the word "walk" should be taken to mean that both legs are required in the act of walking, and that it is necessary to have one leg always on the ground and for it to bear some weight; in other words, that by propelling himself using upper body strength alone, Mr.Sandhu is not able to walk in the true sense of the word.

Sir Scott-Baker held that an "important point of principle" was at stake, and that Mr. Sandhu should be permitted to take his case before the Court of Appeal. The substantive grounds of the appeal are that the original court either misdirected itself on the meaning of the word "walk", or alternatively, if it did have regard to the correct legal test, its decision on the facts was outside the bounds of reasonable judgement.

This case follows a rash of similar instances of claimants being denied benefits due to harsh applications of disability criteria, most notably a case uncovered by BBC Scotland, where a woman named Maureen Leitch was denied benefits & pronounced fit for work despite undergoing radiotherapy & chemotherapy for vulval cancer only weeks before. The appeal date is yet to be confirmed.

Please click here to view the Local West Yorkshire news story.

Desmond Rutledge was instructed by Kirklees Law Centre.



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