On Friday, 30 July 2021 the Supreme Court decision in T (A Child)  UKSC 35 was published. This case concerns the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to authorise a local authority to deprive a child of his or her liberty.
Rob George appeared on behalf of the Appellant and Edward Bennett on behalf of the intervener, the Children’s Commission.
Background in brief
Due to a shortage of provision for children who require special limitations on their liberty but for whom no space is available local authorities are able to seek orders from the High Court under its inherent jurisdiction authorising alternative restrictive placements of children elsewhere than in an approved secure children’s home.
In 2017 Caerphilly County Borough Council (“CCBC”) intended to accommodate T in a placement in England which was not a registered children’s home in circumstances which involved her being deprived of her liberty. It applied to the High Court for an order under the inherent jurisdiction authorising it to deprive T of her liberty there, and the order was granted. After that placement broke down, the court authorised CCBC to deprive T of her liberty in a registered children’s home in England, which was not approved for use as secure accommodation.
The main issues before the Supreme Court were twofold;
i. Firstly, is it a permissible exercise of the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction to make an order authorising a local authority to deprive a child of his or her liberty in this category of case? is such a use of the inherent jurisdiction barred by the Children Act 1989 (the “CA 1989”) and contrary to article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the “ECHR”)?
ii. Secondly, if the High Court can have recourse to its inherent jurisdiction to make an order of the type in question, what is the relevance of the child’s consent to the proposed living arrangements?
The Supreme Court held that the use of the inherent jurisdiction to authorise the deprivation of liberty in cases like the present is permissible, but expresses grave concern about its use to fill a gap in the child care system caused by inadequate resources.
To read the full judgment, click here.