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(Court of Appeal; Dyson, Smith and Wilson LJJ; 21 February 2008)
When, in family proceedings, a court had made a direction under Children Act 1989, s 37, that a local authority should investigate the circumstances of a person claiming to be a child and when, in response to the direction, the local authority informed the court of their conclusion, following investigation, that the person was not a child, the court was entitled to direct that a fact-finding hearing should take place in order to determine the issue as to whether or not the person was a child. The local authority was entitled to submit to the court that there was no power to make a direction under s 37 because there was no 'child' or because there were no family proceedings, or because no question arose with respect to the child's welfare, but s 37 did not confer on a local authority the right to determine whether any of the three threshold requirements for the exercise of a judicial power under s 37 were satisfied. When making a direction under s 37 the court had to be satisfied that the proceedings were not a contrivance to secure the facility to challenge a local authority's assessment of a person's age in a judicial enquiry de novo, which would run counter to the statutory scheme for the discharge of local authority functions.
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