Landmark Guidance given on the Use of Dental Evidence in Age Cases

The Vice President of the Upper Tribunal today gave judgment on the use of Dental Evidence in determining the Age of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children age disputed by Local Authorities.

In a landmark decision Mr Ockleton gave guidance on the methods used by Croydon London Borough Council to assess young peoples ages for the purposes of determining whether they are entitled to services as children.

Croydon and a growing number of councils have routinely sought to rely upon dental examinations as a means of determining the age of young people in their care.

In his guidance the Vice President has warned against reliance on dental evidence which was described as an ‘extremely hazardous’ basis for deciding the question of a young person’s age and called for evidence from a dental professor of Kings College, London be ‘read with the greatest of caution’. The Tribunal found his methods and findings were based on ‘unreliable data’ and the expert had developed ‘an attitude of omniscience, in which he is prepared to assume that what he says goes’.

The guidance will act as a wake up call to all practitioners of the risks of relying upon dental evidence in claims involving  unaccompanied children.

The case was brought after Croydon Council attempted to obtain permission to force two boys from Afghanistan known as ‘ZM’ and ‘SK’ to have a dental x-rays as a means of establishing their ages.

Both boys arrived in the UK last summer and said they were 14 and 15 years old respectively. However, Croydon Council didn’t believe them and assessed them both as adults.

The Public Law Team and Bhatia Best Ltd representing the boys together with the Refugee Council decided to challenge the local authority’s assessment but Croydon Council insisted on sending both boys for dental x-rays to ‘prove’ they were adults after a dental professor claimed it was possible to judge a young person’s age accurately through x-rays.

To discuss the guidance or for advice on the effects of the Upper Tribunal’s Ruling on this issue please do not hesitate to contact stuart.luke@bhatiabest.co.uk or another member of the Public Law Team on 0115 9503231.