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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> O, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Lambeth  EWHC 937 (Admin) (28 April 2016)
Cite as:  EWHC 937 (Admin)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
(Sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court)
| R (on the application of)
(and the child's mother and litigation friend Ms PO)
|- and -
LONDON BOROUGH OF LAMBETH
Ms Sian Davies (instructed by Lambeth Legal Services) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 9 March 2016
Crown Copyright ©
Helen Mountfield QC :
The legal framework
i) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
ii) so far as is consistent with that duty to promote the upbringing of such children by their families.
"What a public authority decided should in principle be ascertained objectively by considering how the document communicating the decision would reasonably be understood, and not by enquiring into what the author of the document meant to say or what was privately in his mind at the time when he wrote the document".
That is the approach I have taken in considering the extent of enquiry undertaken on the facts of this case.
Assessment and litigation history
Accounts of housing and subsistence history
The content of the assessments
The first NRPF assessment – April 2015
The Second NRPF assessment
i) The accounts given in the first NRPF assessment dated April 2015;
ii) The assessing social worker visited O and PO in their interim accommodation and questioned PO on 17 July 2015. She was asked about apparent inconsistencies in her account on 11 September 2015. The assessing social worker visited PO and met her again on 7 September 2015 and invited her to comment on the draft assessment. At this meeting, various questions were put to PO. In particular:a) One of the addresses which PO said they had lived when O was born did not exist. This was put to PO and she provided no explanation.b) PO had provided bank account details which showed that – unlike in the earlier assessment where she had received a number of payments from an Eze CC, there were no such payments. She was asked if this was O's father who was also called Eze. She said not, but would not provide a surname for Eze CC.c) PO said that the money which had been seen going through her account in the first assessment was money she had been given by Eze CC and CO, but this was to give to someone called "Abby". When challenged as to why she had then spent this money, PO said she was meant to give it to Abby but had spent it on herself. (PO now accepts that this was not a true account: she now says she was in fact paid for working by Eze CC and CO, but gave an untrue account to protect them because this was illegal work, in breach of her presence conditions in the UK).d) She was specifically asked for her views of the assessment but maintained that she was destitute. She was offered an opportunity to respond to or correct any issues with which she specifically disagreed but did not do so.
iii) Further, on 11 August 2015 – the assessing social worker spoke to O privately without her mother hearing the conversation. He asked her where she went by train and O answered that "they go by train to visit Uncle Michael [E]". She added that they sometimes stay with Uncle Michael". This was inconsistent with what O's mother, PO, had told the social worker, which was that they had not stayed with Michael E since his mother had died. This apparent inconsistency was put to the mother, who said that O was wrong.
iv) Michael E, Eze CC and Ms J were all contacted and asked to answer questions about this, but did not co-operate or provide full answers to enquiries.
v) PO was asked to provide contact details for Eze CC so that the assessing social worker could ask him questions but she was very cagey about doing so and would only show the social worker the telephone number on her phone after she had been to the bathroom with her phone and returned. Only a mobile phone number was provided as a source of contact for "Eze CC".
vi) A meeting was also convened on 20 October 2015, between PO, the assessing social worker's team manager, the service manager and the mother's representative to discus the mother's complaint about the assessment outcome. She was invited to give any further information but declined to do so.
i) The fact that PO had been assisted by friends with accommodation for the past five years since O's birth;
ii) O's explanation that they sometimes stayed with the E family and "uncle Michael" which was apparently inconsistent with PO's case that she had not stayed at the E family household since Mrs E's death when O was only two years old;
iii) Michael E's failure to respond to enquiries, and Ms J's failure to respond to further enquiries (having co-operated with the first NRPF assessment);
iv) The lack of explanation for why Ms J would not continue to accommodate PO and O which she had been doing at the time of the first assessment;
v) Lambeth's doubts as to PO's credibility in the light of her implausible initial account of why there had been, in April 2015, money in her account (which she has since admitted was untrue) and apparent inconsistencies in her evidence, as noted above.