January 27th, 2016 by James Goudie KC

The Supreme Court in Samin v Westminster City Council, Mirga v SSWP [2016] UKSC 1, was concerned with the rights of residence in the UK and benefit rights in the UK of “persons from abroad”, specifically EU nationals (from Austria and Poland), pursuant to the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, SI 2006/1003 (“the EEA Regulations”), made under EU Directive 2004/38/EC.  Mr Samin was born in Iraq in 1960. In 1992 he and his family were granted asylum in Austria.  He was granted Austrian citizenship the following year. He then became estranged from his wife and children and came to the UK in December 2005 Since then he has lived in the UK alone.  He is socially isolated.  He suffers from poor mental and physical health.

Mr Samin occupied private accommodation until 2010. He then applied to Westminster City Council (“the Council”) for housing under the homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1996 (“the Housing Act”).  The Council decided that he was “a person from abroad who is not eligible for housing assistance” within the meaning of Section 185(1) of the Housing Act, because he did not have the right of residence in the UK under EEA Regulations. That decision was affirmed in the Central London County Court, whose decision was in turn upheld by the Court of Appeal.  The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed his appeals.

The Supreme Court held first that the domestic law did not infringe Mr Samin’s EU Treaty rights. It held second (paragraphs 58-70) that there was no lack of proportionality on account of individual consideration not having been given to the individual case.  The important point of principle is that a proportionality exercise is not required in every case where the right of residence and/or the right against discrimination under the EEA Regulations is invoked.

On the same day, 27 January 2016, the Supreme Court also gave Judgment in Youssef v SSFCO [2016] UKSC 3, in which the issues that arose included the standard of review.  Lord Carnwath, giving the Judgment, said, having referred to Kennedy v Information Commissioner [2015] AC 455 and Pham v SSHD [2015] 1 WLR 1591:

“55.      In Keyu v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2015] UKSC 69; [2015] 3 WLR 1665 (decided since the hearing in this appeal) this court had occasion to consider arguments, in the light of Kennedy and Pham, that this court should authorise a general move from the traditional judicial review tests to one of proportionality. Lord Neuberger (with the agreement of Lord Hughes) thought that the implications could be wide-ranging and “profound in constitutional terms”, and for that reason would require consideration by an enlarged court. There was no dissent from that view in the other judgments. This is a subject which continues to attract intense academic debate …  It is to be hoped that an opportunity can be found in the near future for an authoritative review in this court of the judicial and academic learning on the issue, including relevant comparative material from other common law jurisdictions. Such a review might aim for rather more structured guidance for the lower courts than such imprecise concepts as “anxious scrutiny” and “sliding scales”.

  1. Even in advance of such a comprehensive review of the tests to be applied to administrative decisions generally, there is a measure of support for the use of proportionality as a test in relation to interference with “fundamental” rights (Keyu paras 280-282 per Lord Kerr, para 304 per Lady Hale). Lord Kerr referred to the judgment of Lord Reed in Pham (paras 113, 118-119) where he found support in the authorities for the proposition that:

 “… where Parliament authorises significant interferences with important legal rights, the courts may interpret the legislation as requiring that any such interference should be no greater than is objectively established to be necessary to achieve the legitimate aim of the interference: in substance, a requirement of proportionality.” (para 119)

 See also my own judgment in the same case (para 60), and those Lord Mance (paras 95-98) and Lord Sumption (paras 105-109), discussing the merits of a more flexible approach in judging executive interference with important individual rights, in that case the right to British citizenship.

  1. On the other hand, in many cases, perhaps most, application of a proportionality test is unlikely to lead to a different result from traditional grounds of judicial review. …”

Lord Carnwath further observed, in paragraph 61:

“… Judicial review is a discretionary remedy.  The Court is not required to ignore the appellant’s own conduct, or the extent to which he is the author of his own misfortunes. …”


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