In a decision that may come as little surprise to those working in the fields of inquiries and public law, the Divisional Court consisting of Dingemans LJ and Garnham J dismissed the Cabinet Office’s application for judicial review of a notice issued by Baroness Hallett, the Chair of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (“the Inquiry”) requesting the production of WhatsApp messages.
The issues for determination related to the scope of the powers of the Chair under the Inquiries Act 2005 to seek and obtain material in the course of her investigations pursuant to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. The Cabinet Office sought to argue that some of the material sought by the Chair was “unambiguously irrelevant” to the Terms of Reference. The Chair’s position was that all documents she requested were of “potential relevance” to her lines of investigation. The Divisional Court gave permission to apply (i.e. met the threshold for review and the claim raised an important issue as to the interpretation of the Inquiries Act 2005) but went on to dismiss the substantive claim.
This decision, handed down by Swift J in the High Court, concerns the requirements for fairness in local authority age assessments for asylum seekers and the correct approach to be adopted.
The claimant, a Sudanese national, arrived in the UK on 21 May 2021 and made an application for asylum, claiming to be 17 years old. The local authority did not believe the claimant to be a child and assessed him to be 23 years old. The claimant was provided with initial accommodation in the area of the local authority. Social workers employed by the local council also assessed the claimant as being 23 years old. The claimant’s legal representatives on two occasions complained about the local authority’s decision, firstly levelling several criticisms of the way the age assessment process had been conducted and then enclosing additional evidence in respect of the claimant’s age and requesting a reconsideration, which the local authority rejected.
The judgment in Vardy v Rooney  EWHC 2017 can be foundHERE.
The case was a game of two other halves – Coleen Rooney, wife of Wayne, and Rebekah Vardy, wife of Jamie. Steyn J’s judgment left Rooney and her legal team punching the air and dousing themselves in champagne whilst Vardy cradled herself at the side of the pitch, reflecting on the moment she stepped up to take the stand, a moment that will give her nightmares for years. To be clear – I am speaking metaphorically, that didn’t actually happen. If there is one thing reading this judgment has taught me, it is not to make assumptions about whether you are going to be sued for libel, as some people have a really surprising take on the wisdom of doing that.
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