R (RJM) v SSWP [2008] UKHL 63

Social welfare payments come within the scope of Article 1 Protocol 1; homelessness is an "other status" under Article 14; depriving the homeless of disability premiums was justified; the Court of Appeal is free (but not obliged) to follow an ECtHR decision rather than a previous inconsistent CA decision, but (absent wholly exceptional circumstances) must follow any previous House of Lords decision.


The claimant was a rough sleeper ("without accommodation") so, although entitled to Income Support, was not entitled to a disability premium, under Income Support (General) Regulations 1987. He claimed that social security benefits came within Article 1 First Protocol and that the discriminatory treatment (because of his status as being homeless) was not justified under Article 14.

It was held that:

1. Social welfare payments (and thus the claimant's disability premium) came within the scope of A1P1, and therefore of Article 14, Stec v UK 65731/01 [2005] ECHR 924 followed.

2. The discrimination was based on homelessness, which is an "other status" under Article 14. In relation to "personal characteristics", rather than taking a binary approach, they should be considered as a a series of concentric circles - innate, or almost innate, characteristics being at the centre and other acquired characteristics being further out. The more peripheral the characteristic the more easy would be justification for discrimination.

3. The discrimination was, just about, justified. Essentially, the Government's approach was to help rough sleepers in other ways than to provide cash for more drugs etc.

4. The Court of Appeal, when faced with an ECtHR decision inconsistent with a previous House of Lords decision, should follow the decision of the House. But the CA were free (but not obliged) to follow the ECtHR rather than a previous CA decision. It had therefore been entitled to depart from an earlier decision when deciding the case below.

As the discrimination was justified, the appeal was dismissed.


This case is relevant to an ongoing judicial review by certain transferred prisoners who under Social Security (Hospital In-Patients) Regulations 2005 are no longer entitled to any welfare payments (and who are currently only paid pocket money under s122).

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