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Benefit of doubt applies even to abbreviated age assessments

Benefit of doubt applies even to abbreviated age assessments

AB v Kent County Council [2020] EWHC 109 (Admin) is about whether an asylum seeker is entitled to the benefit of the doubt even where a local authority decides they are clearly over 18 and therefore does not carry out a full Merton age assessment. AB was not given a full age assessment because Kent Council concluded that he was clearly over 18, assessing him to be between 20 and 25 years old. He challenged that decision, arguing that the council should have given him the benefit of the doubt and conducted a full Merton assessment.

Mrs Justice Thornton agreed, finding that because the council had initially assessed AB as being quite close to 18, the benefit of the doubt required the full assessment:

The Council’s decision letter contains no express acknowledgement of the margin for error in its assessment. Nonetheless, Ms Rowlands [for the council] pointed to the conclusion that AB presented as twenty – twenty five years and said this was consistent with any requirement to acknowledge the margin for error and appropriate in the circumstances of this case. However, given the potential margin for error identified above, I am of the view that Kent Council should have given AB the benefit of the doubt and conducted a Merton compliant assessment. Ms Mead [from the Home Office] assessed AB as ‘around’ twenty to twenty one years. The formal decision assessed him at twenty – twenty five years. In the circumstances of this abbreviated assessment, the assessed age is too close to the cut off of eighteen years for the Council not to give AB the benefit of the doubt.

Alexander Schymyck

Alex teaches Public Law at Queen Mary University of London and is due to start pupillage at Garden Court Chambers in October 2020

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