On 8 May Collins J gave judgment in the test case of WK v Home Secretary and Kent County Council, together with a related test case involving Croydon LBC. The Administrative Court was asked to consider the system of age assessment applied by local authorities and the Home Office to asylum-seekers claiming to be under 18. Local authorities now process thousands of such claims each year. Over 70 judicial reviews in the High Court awaited the determination of the lead cases. In a previous case another judge had held that public authorities should accept the age assessment of doctors instructed by the claimants.

Charles Béar QC represented Kent and advanced the leading arguments for the defence. Collins J dismissed the claims and held that the medical evidence of age assessment relied on by the claimants lacked a scientific basis, and were not reliable. Public bodies do not act unlawfully if they apply the judgment of experienced social workers rather than adopt the views of claimants’ experts. Charles also appeared for Lambeth LBC in the High Court and Court of Appeal ([2009] LGR 24) on preliminary issues of human rights law and statutory construction raised in age assessment litigation. The claimants’ appeal will be heard by the House of Lords in July 2009.