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Preparing a county court appeal

This content applies to England

General points on preparing a county court appeal .

Appeal preparation

Specialist advice will be needed to draft the grounds of appeal, the skeleton argument and to represent the client. Time to prepare the case will be very short so a speedy referral to a solicitor is essential.

Often there is insufficient time to complete all of the above steps. A great deal is likely to depend on when the client approaches an adviser and whether the adviser has been involved in the review stage. In practical terms the most important steps are probably to:

  • establish the relevant time limit
  • establish whether the case has legal merit (ie whether there is a point of law)
  • work out whether the client is entitled to public funding, and if so
  • refer the client to a solicitor who is able to assist.

Advisers should normally look at the same sort of issues as they would in preparing a review (see the section on Preparing an internal review for details). However there are some important qualifications, discussed below.

Establishing whether the case has legal merit

In looking at the merits of a county court appeal, the starting point is the local authority's decision letter. This is because the local authority alone is responsible for deciding the facts. The focus will be on whether the local authority has properly applied the law to the facts that it has found, and whether it has considered all relevant matters. The section 202 decision has, however, to be seen in context. There may have been defects in the way the authority went about its decision-making. Hence it will also be necessary to look at the information that was before the authority and the inquiries it made. In particular, advisers need to look at any representations put to the authority in connection with the statutory review process. A fresh request for a copy of the housing file (or those parts not previously disclosed) may therefore be needed.

In addition, an adviser should establish the client's version of events around how the review was handled in case there has been any unfairness in the authority's procedure. It will be necessary, for example, to consider whether any adverse comments from third parties were put to the applicant for comment or explanation before a conclusion was formed by the authority.

New evidence

The authority will be unable to consider new evidence because the review process has been completed. The court will not criticise the local authority for failing to take into account evidence that was not given to it. One exception is where evidence relates to the conduct of the review process. Another possible exception is where there is evidence that could show that appropriate inquiries were not made, and that if they had been made, the outcome of the local authority's decision would have been different.

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