• In the case of R (O) v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 925; [2012] 1 WLR 1057, judicial review proceedings challenging a public body’s decision regarding accommodating a child in need could not be applicable to the court’s duty under the Children Act 1989 section 1(1) to treat the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration.

Facts of the Case

  • C made an appeal involving judicial review regarding a judge’s decision not to provide a compulsory order that C should be accommodated at a school opted by C’s parents.
  • D chose a school near C’s home and believed C should attend this school and live in a children’s home in Croydon.
  • C’s parents chose an alternative location, which received support from a consultant paediatrician, consultant child, adolescent psychiatrist, and an independent social worker. 


  • Can the D’s decision as to C’s placement be questioned?
  • Was D’s refusal to place C at the parents’ preferred place unlawful interference with C’s rights under the ECHR?
  • Did section 1(1) of the Children Act 1989 require the court to treat C’s welfare as its paramount consideration when determining the above issues?

Held by Court of Appeal

  • The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on the grounds that D were entitled to make the decision they had come to; weighing the different factors caused a difference in opinion on C’s placement.

Black LJ

  • The Council prioritised maintaining C’s links with his locality and thereby limiting the geographical limitations of connecting to his family.
  • The court is not entitled to reverse a decision that is concluded by the Council under the Act; the court’s jurisdiction involves the reviewal of irrational decisions.
  • “Where a local authority simply chooses one way of meeting a child’s needs rather than another, it cannot be said to have interfered with the exercise by the child or the parents of their right to respect for their private or family life.” [43]
  • “The lives of children move quickly and their needs change continuously. Inevitably, this means that decisions about their needs have to be revisited. Sometimes they will remain valid, sometimes they will continue to have some influence whilst not being determinative, sometimes they will no longer be appropriate at all. It is therefore a matter for a local authority to attribute appropriate weight to a decision such as that of the tribunal, bearing in mind the nature of the decision that the tribunal was required to make (which, as here, may not be the same as that which the local authority is making) and any changes of circumstances since then.” [58]

Editor’s Notes

  • A local authority’s decision will not be deemed as inadequate where there are various determining factors when making a conclusive choice, and those factors are weighted appropriately by the local authority.