(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Longmore, Black LJJ, 10 April 2013)
The three children, aged 14, 12 and 6, lived with the maternal grandmother in Islington due to concerns for the mother's care of them and her relationship with a man who had a history of sexual offending against children. When he was released from prison he was alleged to be living with his family just two streets away from the grandmother.
The grandmother brought judicial review proceedings on behalf of the children against the local authority claiming they failed to carry out assessments and make enquiries pursuant to their duties under s 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989. By the time of the hearing the local authority had produced initial assessments and accepted that they would need to update their risk assessment in light of information received regarding the time period of the man's licence conditions upon his release from prison.
The local authority had consulted with the police and other organisations prior to producing their original risk assessment and the police indicated in their assessment that the man posed a very high risk and provided details of his offending. However, that view altered prior to the completion of the assessment and the later view was that these children were at no more risk than other children in the local community. The children challenged the lawfulness of the local authority assessment based on that view. The court failed to find the assessment was unlawful. The children appealed.
The appeal was allowed on the ground that the local authority's assessment had been unreasonable in the Wednesbury sense in that it had been based on police evidence which had changed substantially. The local authority had failed to make a critical evaluation of the police evidence.