Tim Baldwin successfully challenges age assessment of unaccompanied minor from abroad

Monday 15 August 2016

Tim Baldwin represented the claimant in R(on the application of JG by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Bristol City Council (Defendant) and Secretary of State for the Home Department (Interested Party) CO/1241/2016 (unreported) heard in the High Court, sitting in Bristol, on the 11 August 2016.

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The claimant is an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan, is a Pashto speaker and had received no formal education. He lived with his mother and younger brother; his father served in the Afghan National Army and returned to the village regularly. The claimant fled Afghanistan shortly after his father was killed by the Taliban. Shortly before he did so, the claimant’s mother told him that he was 14-and-a-half years old. His journey to the UK was arranged by an agent and his journey lasted approximately five months. He travelled through Iran, where he stayed for approximately one month, and through Calais where he stayed at the ‘jungle’ refugee camp. He arrived in the UK in or around September 2015 and appears to have first had contact with social services on 10 September 2015.

He claimed asylum and initially the Home Department accepted his age and recorded him as 15 years old. By contrast, Bristol City Council made a “Merton”-compliant age assessment that the claimant was 19 based on a variety of sources of evidence including foster carers, a teacher and their own assessments. Based on evidence provided by the claimant’s English teacher, Mr Justice Blake granted permission for judicial review of this claim. Further medical evidence was obtained as to the claimant’s mental health and cognitive abilities based on how he presented and answered questions put to him. The claimant did not know his age except for what his mother had told him and had no documentary evidence in support of his claim.

On the 11 August 2016, upon hearing the claim and the accompanying evidence of differing opinions from social workers, foster carers and a teacher, as well as psychological evidence as to the claimant’s age, HHJ Denyer QC gave an extempore judgment and determined the claimant’s age as 17 years and six months. He gave particular weight to the evidence of the claimant’s English teacher. Thus it was confirmed that the claimant was a minor under 18. This finding will aid the Claimant in his asylum appeal process as adjustments will be made now that he is deemed to be a minor unaccompanied child rather than an adult.

Tim Baldwin is a member of the Administrative and Public Law, Community Care and Immigration: Asylum and Human Rights teams at Garden Court Chambers. He was instructed via the Official Solicitor by the team of solicitors and caseworkers at Avon and Bristol Law Centre.

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