QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF TAWANA BLACKWOOD||(CLAIMANT)|
|SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MISS S RAHMAN (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
Crown Copyright ©
"When exercising his power under section 95 to provide accommodation, the Secretary of State must have regard to...
(b) the desirability, in general, of providing accommodation in areas in which there is a ready supply of accommodation."
That essentially means that accommodation will be provided under the dispersal policy outside London and the South East.
"We would be grateful if you would process and grant this application as a matter of urgency. If you do not grant this application we put you on notice that we intend to rely on Article 3 of the Human Rights Act in that Miss Blackwood's return to Jamaica will amount to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. We will also rely on Article 8 in that her return would also breach her private and family life ."
It is that that makes her an asylum seeker within the meaning of the 1999 Act and that is why I have said that she would not be perhaps regarded by the general public as someone who they would think of as an asylum seeker. She is entitled to the support of NASS because she has made a claim that to return her would breach her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
"I have lived in London since I was 10 years old. I am now 21 years old. My mother lives in London and I am trying to build a relationship with her after many years estrangement. I have friends and social support in London. I have a baby born one month premature on 7.12.01.
I have a secure tenancy from Southwark council. I have lived here for 3 years. I do not want to lose the tenancy which is valuable to me."
There is then reference to a letter to the Refugee Council. That was a letter sent by her solicitors dated 27th December 2001. So it was, as I say, that the letter of 24th June was sent. That stated that all the factors of the application had been carefully considered and all issues raised in the representations had been noted, particularly the request that she be supported by NASS in her current accommodation. It went on:
"The Secretary of State however, for the reasons stated below, is of the view that dispersal to a suitable area would be appropriate and that there are insufficient compelling or compassionate reasons why Miss Blackwood cannot be allocated dispersal accommodation."
One paragraph further on this is said:
"Moreover Miss Blackwood appears to enjoy no family support in London. She would appear to have never had a relationship with her mother, who indeed failed to provide her with any kind of support when she was pregnant and most in need, and by your own account is scarcely able to care for herself, let alone her daughter. Although your client may have attempted to make contact with her mother recently, unless you are able to provide evidence to the contrary, there is nothing to suggest that the situation is likely to change substantially in the future. Her baby is now 6 months old and would of course be allocated accommodation with her. The fact that she has 3 friends in the London area is not of sufficient weight to affect the Secretary of State's decision to disperse her. The Secretary of State considers that his decision would not therefore constitute a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR."
One remarkable thing about that paragraph is the total failure on the face of it to deal properly with the point that she had lived in that particular area of London all her life, that she did indeed have no proper relationship with her mother but that she was hoping to achieve one and that the friends upon whom she relied were essential to her well-being. To say the fact that she has 3 friends in the London area is not of sufficient weight totally fails, on the face of it, to grapple with the points that were being made on her behalf. So it was that the solicitors the following day wrote a letter asking for the matter to be reconsidered. They stated as follows:
"In the fourth paragraph of your letter you say '...Miss Blackwood appears to enjoy no family support in London...' This is factually inaccurate. Our client has resumed her relationship with her mother since the birth of her child. It is a tentative and fragile relationship but it is a relationship worth nurturing. Our client will be unable to do this if she is dispersed to another part of the country. She will not have the resources to maintain contact. Our client also as a cousin Claudette who has provided considerable support to her. Details are set out in our previous correspondence to you.
We would remind you that our client has had a very difficult upbringing. She is extremely shy and does not make new friends easily. She is a very young women with a small baby and requires social and emotional support. She currently receives this from her two friends in London and a [prayer] group that she attends every Friday. If she is dispersed to another part of the country, our client will not be able to replicate these support networks very easily. This will leave a very young woman and a small baby in very difficult social circumstances for a number of years. Given that our client has already established links and accommodation in London, we cannot see the purpose of dispersing her at this point. To do so would surely have a detrimental effect upon her and her child's well being.
Our client does have a family life worth preserving for the reasons stated above. You are wrong to say that she will not lose anything by leaving London because she does not have any social contacts here."
That elicited a reply on 28th June, and what is said about that aspect is:
"We understand that Miss Blackwood has benefited from the support of a few friends in the London area and that she may recently have renewed some tentative contact with her mother, with whom she had not been in contact for some years. However the Secretary of State does not consider this to be a compelling or compassionate reason of sufficient weight to justify a departure from his general policy of dispersal."
"Each application should be examined on its own merits. Careful consideration must be given to the individual circumstances of each case and when deciding whether it is reasonable to allocate dispersed accommodation particular attention should be given to the following:
. Medical treatment
. Special needs
. Family ties
. Ethnic group
. Religion Employment
. Legal advice
Then paragraph 2.8:
"If an applicant states on their application form that they want to stay in a particular area and it is decided to allocate accommodation elsewhere, caseworkers should give written reasons for their decision."
Then paragraph 5 of the Policy Bulletin, under the heading "Family Ties" refers to Article 8 and states that regard must be had to Article 8 when deciding cases where requests are being made to be accommodated or to remain near family or friends, and that that must be carefully taken into account. It states that caseworkers should be alert to exceptional circumstances of individual cases which might make it appropriate to depart from these general guidelines.
"Mr McNulty concludes in his assessment of the Claimant's account that it is likely that the Claimant's mental state would suffer if she was dispersed away from her support group within her immediate neighbourhood and that she would have greater dependency on social and mental health care support services. However, the Claimant does not view her condition to be such that she is in need of, or has sought, any such professional services. Further, NASS dispersal accommodation is procured in areas where voluntary and community structures are in place or can be developed and the Claimant would be able to access in a dispersal area such support as was necessary."
This application therefore succeeds.