Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Samuels v Birmingham City Council – Supreme Court Grants Permission

In October 2015 the Court of Appeal dismissed Ms Samuels’ appeal against the decision of HHJ Worcester, dismissing her s204 homeless appeal against the decision of Birmingham City Council that she was intentionally homeless because she could have made up the shortfall between her rent and her Housing Benefit from her subsistence benefits, but failed to do so.

We applied for an amendment to Ms Samuels’ legal aid certificate to enable an application for permission to appeal to be made to the Supreme Court. On Christmas Eve 2015 the LAA High Costs Civil Team informed us that the application had been refused as they considered the prospects of success to be “poor”. We sought a review. The decision was upheld and our client’s legal aid certificate was discharged. We received notice of this on 14/3/16. On 22/3/16 we appealed against the discharge and refusal to amend to enable us to seek permission from the Supreme Court. On 3rd October 2016 we received the decision of the SCRP that our appeal had been dismissed. We were dismayed by the poor quality of the decision and its lack of reasoning. On 20 October we sent the LAA a Judicial Review pre action letter in respect of that decision. A further SCRP was convened to consider the appeal de novo.

On 17/3/2017 we were informed that, once again, our appeal had been refused by the SCRP. Once again we sent a Judicial Review pre action protocol letter to the LAA challenging that refusal, predominantly on the ground of failure to consider relevant matters. Once again the LAA confirmed that the matter would be reconsidered by a fresh SCRP.

On 31 May 2017 we received a third decision from the SCRP, again refusing our appeal, this time by a 2 – 1 majority. The view of the majority was that “there would be very little prospect of the SC granting permission…”

We discussed the situation with James Stark from Garden Court North who had appeared for Ms Samuels in the County Court and the Court of Appeal. We agreed that in the circumstances we had no option but to seek permission to appeal from the Supreme Court, without the benefit of Public Funding. Thankfully the view of the majority of the last SCRP was not shared by the Supreme Court.

We are extremely pleased that the important issues raised in this case will, finally, be considered by the Supreme Court.

Now to apply for Legal Aid to continue the appeal……..