23rd January 2020
HIGH COURT RULES VISUAL AGE ASSESSMENT PROCESS IS UNLAWFUL
Judgment in the case of AB v Kent County Council  EWHC 109 (Admin) was today handed down by Mrs Justice Thornton DBE. The judgment is a seminal decision on the lawfulness of short form abbreviated age assessments and the circumstances in which they may be undertaken.
The case, brought by AB through Instalaw Solicitors instructed by the Refugee Council with counsel, Phillip Rule of No 5 Chambers challenged the conduct of 'short form age assessments' conducted shortly after arrival in circumstances where young people have yet to be given opportunity to recover from their long and arduous journey and where there are no 'minimum procedural safeguards afforded to protect the young person through the process.
Whilst the circumstances of this case are important, the Judgment of the court is of wider application that will impact upon how all local authorities approach the conduct and outcome of any 'short form' age assessment.
The court held that Kent County Council's 'abbreviated age assessment' was unlawful because it was based on AB's physical appearance and demeanour and failed to adequately acknowledge the potential margin for error and give AB the corresponding benefit of the doubt. The Judgment sets out that in any case where the decision to dispute age is taken on the basis of appearance and demeanour and fails to consider the margin for error, that the local authority must in such cases apply the benefit of the doubt principle and proceed to conduct a Full Merton Compliant Age Assessment. The margin of error which appears in the judgment of the court of appeal in BF;
"If it is legitimate for the Secretary of State to make an initial decision based on appearance and demeanour only, it is incumbent on him to ensure so far as possible that such decisions take fully into account the wide margin of error which such decisions will necessarily involve, so that only those young people whose claims to be under 18 are obviously false are detained: in other words, anyone claiming to be a child must be given the benefit of the doubt…"
That principle applied in AB's was set out by the Judge as that "their physical appearance/demeanour very strongly suggests they are significantly over 18 years of age and no other credible evidence appears to the contrary". In practice that will mean that unless the appearance and demeanour of a young person very strongly suggests they are significant over 18, and in AB's case the court was not satisfied that providing an age range of between 20 - 25 was sufficient to discharge the 'margin of error' required when disputing age, the local authority are required to proceed and conduct a full Merton Compliant Age Assessment and give the young person the benefit of the doubt whilst that Age Assessment is then completed.
How this will be applied by local authorities remains to be seen, however it would seem that only in those cases where the appearance and demeanour of a young person is no less than 25 and no credible evidence to the contrary, local authorities must proceed to conduct a Full Age Assessment. In AB's case the reference to 'evidence to the contrary' was his account of his age and date of birth and the observations of a caseworker within the Refugee Council, however each case is to be taken on its own facts and circumstances and how local authorities try to apply the 'credible evidence to the contrary' element of an initial age assessment will vary from case to case.
In AB's case Kent have been ordered to conduct a Full Merton Compliant Age Assessment prior to the case being Transferred to the Upper Tribunal in the event that a dispute as to AB's age remains.
Instalaw are the national law firm for Age Dispute cases, if you would like to discuss the judgment and how it affects the conduct of Age Assessment's in the future please do not hesitate to contact Stuart Luke or Martin Bridger on 0115 8246555 or
25th October 2019
INSTALAW CELEBRATING EXCELLENCE AFTER WINNING SMALL LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR 2019 AT PRESTIGOUS AWARDS
On 23 October 2019 Instalaw Solicitors gathered along with the leading, legal, figures in the UK at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards to celebrate the hard work and inspiring achievements of solicitors, legal teams and firms of all sizes across England and Wales.
Instalaw Solicitors achieved excellence in winning the award for small law firm of the year at the recent, 2019, awards, as well as being shortlisted nationally for their achievements in business growth.
Collectively, the Law Society reported that all of the winners of the 2019 awards have tackled some of the biggest cases in England and Wales, implemented innovative new ways to grow their businesses and gone above and beyond in their roles to help society.
Elaborating on that, in awarding Instalaw as law firm of the year, the Law Society congratulated them on their expansion since their inauguration in 2015 to become one of the leading players in protecting and promoting the civil rights of vulnerable groups and individuals within our society. Special mention was made by the Law Society of Instalaw’s award winning initiatives in ensuring client care, best practice and the work that has been undertaken along with national charities to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society are properly protected.
Instalaw Solicitors was set up by Stephen Luke, Simon Howland and Robert Welsh in November 2015. All three were established figures in the Prison Law Sector and built their practice, offering unrivalled representation to prisoners in relation to all Prison Law related issues. Instalaw is now one of the largest and well-respected Prison Law practices in the country with a team of over 30 Prison Law Specialists.
Following the firm’s success, Instalaw was awarded Client Care initiative of the Year 2019 at the Modern Law awards earlier this year for its excellent attention to detail and outstanding client care.
In 2018, Instalaw solicitors successfully tendered for contracts with the Legal Aid Agency in Public Law, Community Care and Actions Against Public Authorities. The addition of these, three, contracts offered another string to the Instalaw bow and allowed the firm to progress in their pursuit of protection of civil rights.
Upon the commencement of the civil contracts, in September 2018, Instalaw Solicitors were joined by Martin Bridger and Stuart Luke; two of the leading figures, nationally, in the Public Law arena.
The additional contracts, the ability to commence Judicial Review work, where appropriate, the continued growth and the support that came with the new contracts from charitable organisations was not lost on the Law Society when awarding the award.
Instalaw Solicitors ability and desire to assist vulnerable clients where necessary and possible only grows. Since the commencement of the legal aid, civil, contracts in 2018 in Public Law, Community Care and Actions Against Public Authorities, the firm is actively involved in ongoing, test, challenges to ensure the progression and evolution of the law when and where required. At the moment, Instalaw Solicitors are involved in extant challenges, present before the court, in relation to the rights of prisoners relating to the Parole Board process, the rights of children in need of services under the Children Act 1989, the legality of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, the lawfulness of data retention by the police as a result of GDPR, the powers of the Home Office to deport European Union citizens, to name just a few.
Instalaw Solicitors’ intention remains to speak for those persons who don’t have an ability or opportunity to speak for themselves, to protect the rights of those persons who do not have an opportunity or ability to protect their own and to continue with excellence in practice, in doing so.
If you require any advice of assistance in relation to Prison or Public Law related matters, please feel free to call Instalaw Solicitors on 0115 8246555 or email and a specialist member of the team will contact you.
30th August 2019
Instalaw is crowdfunding on JustGiving
Instalaw’s Public Law specialists are acting on behalf of a large number of British expatriates, living in EU Member States and Third Country Nationals, who are concerned about the prospect of leaving the European Union on 31.10.19 with a ‘no-deal Brexit’.
The claim is important to ensure that British Nationals residing outside of the UK and British National Children are protected following Brexit. The claim also raises significant constitutional points and aims to set a precedent for future UK Executives to follow, in the future, after our departure from the European Union.
We are seeking crowdfunding in order to effectively pursue this matter on behalf of our clients. With your assistance and generosity we will be able to ensure that the case can be pursued on behalf of our clients and all persons who are troubled by the proposed no-deal Brexit.
If you are affected by the Prime Minister’s proposal or if you have concerns for those affected please donate using the following link.
Donate on JustGiving
22nd March 2019
The INTERPOL ‘Red Notice’ system, a system designed to assist law enforcement officers, trace and ultimately detain individuals wanted for criminal offences that have since fled the jurisdiction and therefore evading justice, is time and time again highlighted as being a system that is subject to abuse and manipulation.
The system in principle is important, and a useful tool in seeking to ensure that individuals cannot escape justice by merely leaving the country, the reality however is that it, like a number of other mechanisms, has become overtly political, and subject to consistent manipulation by regimes seeking to silence dissent, and imprison detractors.
Example A (the name of the individual in question must be kept confidential), was an Egyptian national who instructed his legal team following two attempts to detain and extradite him on the basis of a Red Notice that had been issued without foundation.
The individual in question had left Egypt as he had publicly criticised President Sisi and therefore, justifiably feared for his safety.
He resided in Turkey initially but had to travel to a further country on business, upon landing he was arrested on the aforementioned notice and extradition proceedings were commenced. These proceedings were ultimately dismissed as the presiding judge found that the allegations being made by Egypt were entirely without foundation and that the process had been politically motivated. Client A returned to Turkey, but again had to travel to a further country, again on business, and was again detained and extradition proceedings commenced.
His team were able to demonstrate that the matters had already come before another court and dismissed, and in highlighting the position in Egypt regarding current or previous members of the opposition, it was found that Client A ought not to be extradited, and again, that the proceedings that Egypt sought to bring against him were politically motivated.
This is a situation that unfortunately, we are seeing time and time again.
Clients B and C have been subject to Red Notices issued at the behest of the UAE, again, on an entirely fabricated basis, with the sole intention of preventing an issue from being discussed. As with Client A, no offence has actually been committed, however, the UAE seeks to punish those that may disagree with its policies and its oppressive nature.
INTERPOL have confirmed that they are looking into the matter following receipt of detailed submissions from his legal team. It is hoped that INTERPOL agree with the position argued, and that both notices are removed.
There is however no sanction for such states that seek to manipulate the system however, merely because they may have been found to have issued an illegitimate request on one occasion, does not prevent them from continuing to seek to do so in respect of other individuals that it seeks to target.
Instalaw instructs a wider legal team in respect of such matters, a team that have represented individuals that have been targeted by numerous regimes, including those in the Middle-East, South-East Asia, and Europe, and a team who have been able to demonstrate that the position being espoused by those regimes is not as it seems on each and every occasion.
Simply because such a notice has been issued does not mean that it cannot be challenged outside of any formal extradition process.
If an individual believes that the notice is politically motivated, or inappropriate for any other relevant reason, the position can be challenged by way of requesting that the matter is considered directly by INTERPOL.
In our experience, INTERPOL will look at such requests, although their response is not always timely.
This does not detract from the most important issue however, that being that the system is in dire need of reform so as to enable it to be used for the reasons for which it was developed, rather than it being manipulated to become a tool for authoritarian and autocratic regimes to target citizens who have dared to merely exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, and by doing so, have made themselves a target for that State.
It simply cannot be appropriate that an international agency such as INTERPOL is allowed to be used to silence individuals who in reality have committed no discernible offence.
It is essential that any individual targeted in this manner seeks appropriate legal advice and assistance at an early opportunity so as to try and deal with the matter before any extradition process is commenced.
28th February 2019
Instalaw offering ‘International Justice Services’
Instalaw are pleased to announce that they are now offering International Legal Assistance in a number of areas.
Instalaw, already specialises in a number of niche legal areas including Prison Law, Public Law, Community Care and Actions against public Authorities. They are one of the few firms in the country to hold a legal aid contract in each area.
Robert Welsh, Director, said ‘moving into the International Justice Market is a natural progression for us as a firm. We have always been passionate about the protection and rights of individuals on home soil and so we are delighted to be able to assist those abroad with various issues’.
‘In the current political climate the protection of individuals rights has never been more important. There appears to be a growing trend for the abuse of International Warrants for political purposes, such as INTERPOL Red Notices. We can help challenge such notices with the usual vigour and determination that we apply to our domestic instructions’.
As ever, a competitive tailored package of representation is available with fixed fees available in many cases. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.
12th February 2019
Instalaw Solicitor Debbie Heath on BBC News
Congratulations to Instalaw Solicitor Debbie Heath who recently appeared on BBC news to discuss historic child abuse.
Debbie is recognised as an expert in her field where she has represented many individuals at the recent government inquiry into child sexual abuse.
She also has vast experience in bringing compensation claims for the victims of such horrific crimes.
We wish Debbie good luck at the Nottingham Law Society Awards in April where she has been nominated for Junior Lawyer of the year!
31st January 2019
Instalaw Solicitors win the Client Care Initiative of the Year 2019 Award at the Modern Law Awards
The prestigious Modern Law Awards took place on the 31st January at the famous Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.
Instalaw solicitors were shortlisted for awards in both Client Care Initiative of the Year and Business growth.
The Criteria for both awards were:
Client Care Award
Business Growth Award
Instalaw were successful runners up in the Business Growth category, however they were crowned proud winners of the Client Care Initiative of the Year Award 2019.
The Directors said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for both awards but to come away as winners of Client Care Award 2019 was a real honour."
“We have worked hard to build a practice with excellent client care standards and to be recognised for the hard work we put in and dedication we have for all of our clients is just fantastic."
“We would like to thank everyone who has instructed us over the years and instilled trust in our representatives who have achieved a number of great outcomes.”
Instalaw Solicitors are a growing firm with offices in Nottingham and Newcastle-under-Lyme. The firm specialises in Prison Law, Public Law, Actions against Public Authorities, Community Care, Judicial Review, Personal Injury and is actively involved in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual abuse (IICSA).
31st October 2018
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - Child Abuse in Residential Schools
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is the biggest Inquiry in UK history. The Inquiry is looking into many different areas where there have been allegations of Child Sexual Abuse. The Inquiry are now looking into child sexual abuse that took place in Residential Schools in the UK as the number of criminal convictions for child sexual abuse by school staff has surged. The investigation will explore how schools and other agencies respond to allegations of sexual abuse by school staff, and address broad questions of school culture, governance, leadership, training and recruitment.
Multiple institutions are implicated in failures of child protection in schools, including local authorities, schools inspectorates and the police.
The Inquiry is interested in hearing from victims and survivors of abuse who attended the following institutions:
Our Debbie Heath will again be heading a team in relation to this Inquiry. She represents a large number of individuals in the Nottingham strand of the Inquiry and she is trusted by numerous charities to represent their clients.
She has a dedicated number of professionals, including barristers who assist her on a daily basis and they will all work with you to assist you through this process.
She is also able to assist with claims for compensation.
We are able to offer representation at no cost to the individual in nearly all cases.
If you require any additional information about the inquiry itself, the process or have any other general queries please do not hesitate to contact Debbie on 0115 8246 555.
3rd September 2018
INSTALAW DELIGHTED TO WELCOME STUART LUKE & MARTIN BRIDGER TO THE FIRM
Instalaw are delighted to welcome two of the UK’s most experienced Public Law and Community Care solicitors to the firm as part of our ever expanding practice.
Stuart and Martin need no introduction and we are thrilled that they have agreed to join us bringing with them their successful and well-established practices in the field of Public Law and Community Care and they jointly head up the firm’s newly formed Public Law and Community Care Department.
Between them Stuart and Martin have over 19 years of experience of bringing successful claims against public bodies challenging decisions through Judicial Review proceedings and both have appeared with some frequency in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in some of the most important cases in recent legal history.
Their track record of using Judicial Review to successfully secure services for the most vulnerable in society has earnt them a national reputation in their field.
The department specialises in all challenges to decisions made by local authorities and government departments on grounds that they are unlawful, irrationals and/or procedurally unfair and which may commonly include;
Stuart is best known for his work with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children challenging Age Assessments and decisions concerning services under the Children Act 1989.
In 2017 Stuart was nominated by the British Refugee Council for his work for unaccompanied children following a number of seminal judgments establishing through Judicial Review rights for Age Disputed Children and at a ceremony in July 2017 he was awarded the prestigious Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Award.
Stuart works with a number of leading national charities including the British Refugee Council, British Red Cross and Children’s Society to name only a few in representing and challenging the rights for and on behalf of vulnerable children. Stuart was recently described by a leading charity as ‘the go to solicitor in England for advice on Age Disputes’ reflecting his work and commitment to this area in which he is one of the leading solicitors in the UK.
Martin is highly regarded as one of the leading solicitors in the Public Law field. For the past ten years he has been acting for the most vulnerable members of society, securing successful outcomes against all limbs of the state.
Martin has a profound knowledge of the law in relation to all aspects of Public Law and Community Care work and he is considered by a large number of charitable organisations to be the leading solicitor in the Public Law field for his work in assisting vulnerable young children, seeking support from Social Services Departments.
Martin has been successfully involved in numerous reported and leading cases in recent years which have helped frame and develop the legal framework for the years to come. Some of Martin’s reported cases include:
Stuart and Martin are available to accept cases directly from individuals or from charities or agencies assisting and advocating on behalf of a service user that have received a decision for which advice and assistance may be required to establish whether a claim might arise or be possible.
Anyone wishing to seek advice or assistance can contact the Public Law and Community Care Team by telephone on 01782 560155 or
The firm benefits from offering legal aid to bring judicial review proceedings subject to confirming eligibility or alternatively a tailored fixed fee services can be agreed subject to discussion.