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Kehoe v Secetary of State for Work and Pensions in the House of Lords

DATE: 01 May 2005

(K) complained that the provisions of the Child Support Act 1991 which prevented her from pursuing her ex-husband for unpaid child support and instead gave the enforcement function exclusively to the Secretary of State infringed her rights under Article 6. Wall J accepted the argument on behalf of the Claimant (Richard Drabble Q.C. and R de Mello) that her civil rights were engaged thus potentially opening the way to damages claims for unreasonable delay by the Secretary of State in enforcing awards. However he declined to grant a declaration of incompatibility in respect of the provisions, instead accepting the argument on behalf of the Secretary of State (Robert Jay Q.C. and David Forsdick) that the combination of her ability to challenge by way of judicial review failures of the Child Support Agency to take enforcement action and to sue the Agency for damages caused by unreasonable delay meant that the statutory provisions were not incompatible. The Court of Appeal allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal on the first issue and the the Claimant’s cross appeal on the second point was dismissed. The House of Lords heard the Claimant’s appeal in May 2005 and judgment is awaited. If the Claimant succeeds, the case potentially opens the way to parents who have suffered unreasonable delay on the part of the Agency in enforcing child support awards post - October 2000 making damages claims against the Secretary of State.