|Judgments - Regina v. London Borough of Barnet (Respondents) ex parte G (FC) (Appellant) Regina v. London Borough of Lambeth (Respondents) ex parte W (FC) (Appellant)
OF THE LORDS OF APPEAL
FOR JUDGMENT IN THE CAUSE
Regina v. London Borough of Barnet (Respondents)
ex parte G (FC) (Appellant)
Regina v. London Borough of Lambeth (Respondents)
ex parte W (FC) (Appellant)
Regina v. London Borough of Lambeth (Respondents)
ex parte A (FC) (Appellant)
THURSDAY 23 OCTOBER 2003
The Appellate Committee comprised:
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead
Lord Hope of Craighead
Lord Scott of Foscote
HOUSE OF LORDS
OPINIONS OF THE LORDS OF APPEAL FOR JUDGMENT
IN THE CAUSE
Regina v. London Borough of Barnet (Respondents) ex parte G (FC) (Appellant)
Regina v. London Borough of Lambeth (Respondents) ex parte W (FC) (Appellant)
Regina v. London Borough of Lambeth (Respondents) ex parte A (FC) (Appellant)
 UKHL 57
LORD NICHOLLS OF BIRKENHEAD
The three cases
Allocation of resources
Part III of the Children Act 1989
by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs.'
Section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989
Accommodating a child with his parents
LORD HOPE OF CRAIGHEAD
There then follow, in the remainder of Part III and in Schedule 2, provisions dealing with investigations and assessments of needs of children and duties to provide various particular kinds of support services.
As John Murphy observes in his paper at p 104, note 5, Part III was intended to reflect the obligation in article 18(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which was adopted on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990 to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and to ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children: see The United Kingdom's First Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (HMSO, 1994), p 2.
The mutual enjoyment by parent and child of each other's company constitutes a fundamental element of family life, and the placement of children in foster homes or other accommodation which they do not share with their parents constitutes an interference with the right protected by article 8: Kutzner v Germany (2002) 35 EHRR 653, 664, paras 58-59. But the contracting states have a wide margin of appreciation to determine the necessity of any measures taken in pursuit of the legitimate aim of protecting the child's health and rights, which may vary according to the nature of the issues and interests at stake: KA v Finland, Application No 27751/95 (unreported) 14 January 2003. It has not been suggested that Part III of the 1989 Act fails, in principle, to meet the requirements of article 8(2). The general duties set out in section 17(1) would seem to be plainly in keeping with these requirements. The question whether decisions taken under Part III are compatible with the child's article 8 Convention rights must, of course, depend on the facts of each case.
The section 17(1) issue
A v Lambeth: section 17(1)
As Mr Goudie QC for the respondents accepted, members of that section of the public have a sufficient interest to enforce those general duties by judicial review. But they are not particular duties owed to each member of that section of the public of the kind described by Lord Clyde in R v Gloucestershire County Council, Ex p Barry  AC 584, 610A which give a correlative right to the individual which he can enforce in the event of a failure in its performance.
G v Barnet; W v Lambeth: section 23(6)
LORD SCOTT OF FOSCOTE
The language of this provision seems to me to provide very infertile soil for the extraction of a targeted, specific duty owed to an individual child.
The contrast in sub-section (2) between the "general duty" imposed by sub-section (1) and the "specific duties" to be found elsewhere is explicit.
This obligation is not expressed in absolute terms. The local authority will have discharged its mandatory duty if it has taken "reasonable steps". Having identified a child "in need" it will often be necessary for the local authority to assess the actual needs of the child. Somewhat surprisingly the requirement for the local authority to do so is nowhere expressly spelt out. Paragraph 3 of the schedule says that:
It is, I think, implicit in this provision that the local authority will assess the actual needs of a child in need whenever it appears necessary to do so.
And sub-section (7) said that "suitable education" meant education "suitable to [the child's] age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have".
and under paragraph 2(2) of the Approvals and Directions the Secretary of State directed local authorities to make arrangements to provide residential accommodation to certain persons in certain circumstances. A person able to bring himself within the specified category was plainly, in my opinion, owed a statutory duty. There is no equivalent in the present case to the statutory direction given by the Secretary of State under which the specific duty owed to Mr Kujtim arose.
143. As to A, the local authority has, some time ago, accepted her priority need for rehousing. But suitable accommodation has not yet been found. No case has been presented to the courts below or to your Lordships to justify the conclusion that either the social services department or the housing department of the local authority has unreasonably failed to exercise any of the relevant powers available to them. The case presented was that the council was under a mandatory duty under section 17(1) to provide accommodation to the family in accordance with the assessed needs of the autistic children. That case, in my opinion, fails and there is no other case that has been presented. I would dismiss the appeal in A's case for the reasons given by my noble and learned friend, Lord Hope of Craighead with which I am in complete and respectful agreement.