Landmark judgment strikes down Home Office policy of assessing age of asylum seekers based on physical appearance

Today judgment was given in the case of AA v The Secretary of State for the Home Department by Mr Justice Silber at the High Court, London. The judgment is of significant importance to anyone acting for unaccompanied children in Age Dispute and Detention Cases.

AA an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child was detained pursuant to an Assessment by Immigration Officers that he was ‘significantly over 18 years of age’, based on his appearance. AA was subsequently accepted by the Interested Party, Wolverhampton City Council Social Services to be a child age 16.

The case concerned whether AA was unlawfully detained and entitled to damages.

The court found in favour of AA concluding that for the purposes of Immigration Detention the age of an individual is a matter of ‘objective fact’ and can not be based on physical appearance or demeanor’.

The judgment has far reaching consequences for the Home Office’s Assessing Age Policy which permits detention of children assessed to be significantly over 18 years of age based on their appearance. In finding that the question of age is a matter of ‘objective fact’ the judgment renders unlawful the Home Office’s policy of conducting subjective assessments of age and detaining pursuant to a reasonable belief that a child looks significantly over 18.

The judgment paves the way for claims for immediate release and also for significant damages for hundreds of asylum seeking children.

Solicitor and Head of our Public Law and Community Care Team Stuart Luke has worked for a number of years with a number of children’s charities, including the Refugee Council, British Red Cross to stop the detention of children. Stuart works regularly with the Refugee Council, British Red Cross as well as detainee groups in cases involving Age Disputed and Detained children.

If you would like to speak to Stuart about the case, the effect of the judgment or for advice on the detention of child please do not hesitate to contact him by email stuart.luke@bhatiabest.co,uk or telephone 0115 9503231 (option 4).