High Court Judgment on deductions from benefits for utility debts

Cavanagh J has handed down judgment in R (Timson) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2022] EWHC 2392 (Admin).

The judgment finds that the current process for DWP to make deductions from "legacy" (ie non Universal Credit) benefits for fuel and water debts is unlawful and that it needs to include a stage for seeking representations. That duty arose from common law principles of fairness and under the Tameside duty. [209]-[229]

The Judge carried out a wide ranging analysis of the scope of policy challenges following the Supreme Court judgments in R(A) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] UKSC 37 and BF (Eritrea) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] UKSC 38 (see 39 Essex Chambers' news item on the judgments here) [121]-[144] and the scope of when the duty to permit representations arises [150]-[163].

The Judge dismissed the other grounds for judicial review on human rights grounds [238]-[272]. The Claimant had argued that being in receipt of social welfare benefits was a "status" for the purposes of Article 14 ECHR [268]. The Judge held that it was not and that a person in receipt of benefits is not in a relevant analogous position to a person not in receipt of the same benefits [269]-[272].

The parties have two weeks from 23 September 2022 to consider whether to apply for permission to appeal.

The Claimant was represented by Jenni Richards QC instructed by Bindmans, Katherine Apps and Gethin Thomas acted for the Secretary of State instructed by the Government Legal Department.

Nothing in this news item should be interpreted as expressing the views of counsel instructed or of the parties.

For further inquiries please contact the clerks here.