Law Report: Council has duty to house 'homeless' unborn child: Regina v Newham London Borough Council, Ex parte Dada Queen's Bench Division (Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC) 15 July 1994

An unborn child is a 'person who might reasonably be expected to reside' with a homeless person.

Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the Queen's Bench Division, quashed the council's rejection of the applicant's reasons for refusing accommodation.

In 1993 when the applicant was eight months' pregnant, she and her husband were informed by the council that they were to be offered a permanent home as homeless persons in priority need.

Before the baby was born, they were offered the tenancy of a one- bedroom property. Shortly after the baby was born, they rejected the offered accommodation on the grounds that it was a one- bedroom flat.

The council remained satisfied that its offer of accommodation, excluding from its consideration the imminent arrival of the baby, was reasonable.

Christian Moll (Irving Brown & Daughter) for the applicant; Steven Woolf (council solicitor) for the council.

SIR LOUIS BLOM-COOPER QC said that the question raised on the application for judicial review was whether the unborn child would be 'any other person who might reasonably be expected to reside' with the unintentionally homeless person for the purposes of section 75 of the Housing Act 1985.

The ordinary or natural meaning of the word 'person' excluded the unborn, but that might be departed from so as to include a child en ventre sa mere if that would secure to the child a benefit to which it would have been entitled if it had been actually born at the relevant date: Elliot v Joicey (1935) AC 209.

Where the question was a matter of statutory construction, the court's task was to determine whether Parliament intended to include the unborn child in the statutory language.

The homeless persons legislation was designed for the express purpose of bringing and keeping families together.

The Act supported the familial notion and referred to 'family associations'.

Given that legislative framework, the judicial inclination was to say that an unintentionally homeless husband and wife, or partners, awaiting the arrival of their baby were entitled to assume the accommodation being made available to them would accommodate the extra person, and that since section 75 was phrased in futuro - 'might reasonably be expected' - the person would linguistically include an expected baby.

On a construction of section 75, Parliament intended to depart from the strict rule that person must mean a living person, and would include a child en ventre sa mere.

All that was required of the local authority was an acknowledgment, when performing its duty to make available suitable accommodation, that it must take account of the impending addition to the homeless person's family.

Indeed, section 59(1)(a) defined a pregnant woman as having a priority need, and as a person who qualified, therefore, for housing accommodation.

The priority need arose from the very fact of a woman with child.

It would be odd if the homeless person had to occupy accommodation that would be rendered unsuitable almost immediately after taking up occupancy, and to await a transfer to suitable accommodation with all the delay and domestic disruption involved. The council's decision would be quashed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future