• In the case of Bubb v London Borough of Wandsworth [2011] EWCA Civ 1285, it was found that when dealing with an appeal under the Housing Act 1996, the approach taken by the Country Court mirrored the High Court during judicial review and that the judge could not determine a different approach to his own findings of fact.
  • Given the above, a local authority’s decision involving a letter offering permanent accommodation to a homeless individual was irreversible.

Facts of the Case

  • D provided C with an offer for permanent accommodation, given through a letter by hand.
  • C failed to respond to the offer letter, which was deemed as a circumstance in which C was informed of the offer and rejected it under section 193(7) of the Housing Act 1996.
  • C argued that they weren’t in receipt of the letter and sought for D’s decision to be reviewed accordingly.
  • An appeal was brought to the County Court by C under section 204(1)(a) of the Housing Act 1996 giving C the right to appeal on a point of law.
  • It was determined, at the Country Court, that C had in fact received the offer letter.
  • C appealed the decision and asserted that the judge ought to have determined for himself based on the circumstance whether or not C was in receipt of the letter.
  •  C also asserted that the judge ought to have been given oral evidence on this matter, and had the decision been based on judicial review, the judge still reached the wrong decision.

Issues

  • Was the County Court’s approach in reaching their decision incorrect?

Held by Court of Appeal

  • The Court of Appeal dismissed C’s appeal on the basis that the approach adopted by the County Court was substantially similar to that of the High Court since the question of whether C received the letter or not was a question of fact as opposed to a point of law.

Jackson LJ

  • It was found that determining whether C received the letter from D was not a legal question, but rather a hard fact. The court, however, did recognise the difficulty in distinguishing between facts and value judgements given that value judgements may require the realisation of hard facts as a pre-requisite.
  • “The argument that the judge should have determined the issue of whether or not the 11 August letter was received by Ms Bubb is primarily advanced on the ground that the issue raises, both conceptually and under the 1996 Act, not an assessment involving a value judgment for Wandsworth, but a question of hard fact to be determined by the court for itself. The primary basis for this argument is the decision of the Supreme Court in R (A) v Croydon London Borough Council (Secretary of State for Communications and Local Government intervening) [2010] PTSR 106, where the question concerned the determination of the age of an applicant (because it was necessary to decide whether he was a child) under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.” [15]