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Judge rules council 'breached human rights by splitting up family'

Harrow Law Centre has scored a victory after a judge ruled two children's human rights had been breached when they were rehoused without their mother

Pamela Fitzpatrick and staff at Harrow Law Centre
Pamela Fitzpatrick and staff at Harrow Law Centre

A homeless family won the right to live together, after their separation by a council was judged to be a breach of their human rights.

The family, none of whom can be identified for legal reasons, were left homeless and living on the street after being evicted.

Harrow Council felt it had a legal obligation to house the two children – one disabled – but did not do the same for the mother.

Harrow Law Centre, based in Pinner Road, Harrow, took on the case and launched a judicial review of the Conservative-run authority’s decision.

A High Court judge ruled on January 30 in the family’s favour after it was decided the council had breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees a right to private and family life.

Pamela Fitzpatrick, director of Harrow Law Centre, said: “We are concerned that in this case Harrow Council was willing to separate two children, one of whom was disabled, from their mother rather than accommodate the family together.

“This family were very fortunate to have been able to access legal advice from Harrow Law Centre.”

Harrow Council had decided it had an obligation under the Children Act 1989 to accommodate the two homeless children, but had failed to take in to account their human rights.

A summary of the case from the court stated: “Their mother was their sole carer. They had been evicted from their home and were destitute and street homeless.

“The local authority’s assessment was that it was obliged to provide them but not [the mother] with accommodation.

“Interim relief had been ordered pending the instant hearing. [The children] submitted that the assessment meant that they would be separated from [their mother] and therefore the local authority had not addressed their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, Article 8.

“The local authority accepted that its obligations under section 17 and section 20 of the 1989 Act did engage Article 8, but contended that its assessment did not amount to a decision.”

The judgment stated: “No proper human rights assessment had been done. The assessment was unlawful.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council always takes the Human Rights Act into account when making accommodation decisions where children may be separated from parents.”

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