R (Sunderland City Council) v South Tyneside Council [2012] EWCA Civ 1232, [2012] MHLO 117

The chronology in this s117 responsibility dispute was as follows: (a) SF lived at a college hall of residence in Sunderland, (b) she had voluntary admissions to various hospitals, (c) she was voluntarily admitted to a South Tyneside hospital, (d) the college terminated her placement and her licence to remain at the hall of residence, (e) she was detained under s2 then s3 at the South Tyneside hospital. (1) It was common ground that (a) the relevant s117 authority is the relevant LSSA for the area in which a patient is resident when he is detained (Hall), (b) during a period of detention the patient is not 'resident' for s117 purposes in the place of detention (JM); and (c) SF remained resident in Sunderland during the hospital admissions, at least until the Sunderland placement was terminated: therefore the question was where she was resident after that. (2) The High Court judge had decided she remained resident in Sunderland: (a) the South Tyneside placement was 'not compulsory, but it was closely analogous to a compulsory admission' so was to be disregarded, as if it were a place of detention; (b) she was not in hospital 'as part of the regular order of her life for the time being' (applying the test in Shah); (c) the loss of her Sunderland accommodation was not voluntary (as in JM) so did not affect her area of residence. (3) The Court of Appeal overturned that decision: (a) a voluntary period in the same hospital as subsequent detention is not to be treated the same as the period of detention; (b) the judge had wrongly followed the approach in Shah (which related to ordinary residence in a very different statutory context); the approach in Mohamed was more helpful (this included that 'so long as that place where he eats and sleeps is voluntarily accepted by him, the reason why he is there rather than somewhere else does not prevent that place from being his normal residence'); (c) decisively, voluntary and third-party termination of accommodation have the same effect: when the Sunderland accommodation ceased to be available SF was either resident in South Tyneside or not resident anywhere (and the case of 'no residence' is a last resort for extreme and clear circumstances). (4) The court raised two scenarios which it did not need to rule upon: (a) the last place a patient was eating and sleeping might not be his place if residence in some cases: for example if he were in prison, or temporarily away from an established home as a matter of choice (though a hospital stay of more than five years might not be considered temporary); (b) if a patient has a family home which is available upon discharge that might be his residence even if, because of action taken by the family, its location changes during the period of detention.

Related judgment

R (Sunderland City Council) v South Tyneside Council [2012] EWCA Civ 1232, [2012] MHLO 117


Hearing: 10/7/12

Judgment: 9/10/12

Before: Lloyd, Richards, Elias LLJ

Hilton Harrop-Griffiths and Steven Fuller (instructed by Sunderland City Council) for the Appellant

Nathalie Lieven Q.C. and Christopher Mitford (instructed by South Tyneside Council) for the Respondent

The Interested Parties were not present or represented

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