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P v Local Authority [2016] EWHC 2779 (Fam)

Date:21 NOV 2016
Third slide
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Keehan J, 4 November 2016)

Costs – Damages – Young person legally aided in wardship proceedings – Damages agreed in HRA 1998 claim – Whether the LAA was entitled to claw back costs

The Legal Aid Agency was not permitted to claw back costs from wardship proceedings following an award of damages in a Human Rights Act 1998 claim.

The 17-year-old was born female but in 2014 decided to change his identity to be male. The decision caused the relationship with his adoptive parents to breakdown necessitating his accommodation under s 20 by the local authority. He no longer wanted his parents to be involved in his life or to receive any information about him.

Wardship proceedings commenced, in which the young person was legally aided, and declaratory relief was granted absolving the local authority from all obligations to consult with and give information to the parents. The local authority was also ordered not to share various information with the parents. No order for costs was made.

Subsequently a local authority employee disclosed personal information about the young person including his forename and transgender status to friends of the parents. The young person’s mental health was severely compromised and he made a number of suicide attempts. He now sought to bring a claim under the Human Rights Act against the local authority for breach of his Art 8, European Convention rights. He sought a declaration and financial redress. The local authority admitted liability following receipt of a letter before claim and agreed damages of £4,750.

The Legal Aid Agency now contended that it was entitled to recover the entire award on account of the costs incurred in the wardship proceedings. The LAA was unwilling to waive the statutory charge.

The judge held that the damages sought were not related to a breach of an injunction made in the wardship proceedings. There was no legal or factual connection between the wardship proceedings and the young person’s HRA claim. The fact that Re L (Care Proceedings: Human Rights Claims) [2003] 2 FLR 160 advised that HRA claims may or should be made in existing proceedings, did not require the court to conclude that the young person must only make a HRA claim in the ongoing wardship proceedings. No claim form had been issued and the quantum of damages had been settled. The young person’s solicitor was invited to issue a freestanding Part 8 claim for damages, within which he would make the agreed award of damages on the papers. Consequently, the statutory charge was entirely avoided.

This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

Case No: LE15P00456

Neutral Citation Number: [2016] EWHC 2779 (Fam)

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 04/11/2016



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Sarah Morgan QC and Olivia Magennis (instructed by Emery Johnson Astills) for the Applicant
Nicholas Stonor QC and Jacqueline Matthews-Stroud (instructed by Local Authority) for the Respondent
Oliver Jones (instructed by The Central Legal Team Legal Aid Agency) for The Lord Chancellor and The Legal Aid Agency

Hearing dates: 16 August 2016

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