Today the House of Lords ruled on the issue whether residence in a district in accommodation provided to a destitute asylum seeker, under legislation which requires the provider to ignore any preference of the asylum seeker as to where he resides, capable of being regarded as residence (in that district) of the asylum seeker’s own choice. A unanimous House of Lords upheld the majority ruling of the Court of Appeal that it was not the asylum seeker’s own choice within section 199(1)(a) of the Housing Act 1996 if he/she took up the only accommodation offered to avoid destitution.
Lord Scott put the matter of choice as follows:
“counsel for the appellants, the two local authorities, submitted that every voluntary act, every conscious decision, involved a choice. The individual could, whatever the adverse consequences might be, have decided not to do the act in question, or have made some other decision. There is certainly a sense in which counsel is right. If a condemned man walks to the scaffold, not wishing to be dragged there by force, there is a sense in which it could be said that he has chosen to do so. But only a pedant would say that he had gone to the gallows of his own choice. The most that could be said is that he had decided it would be preferable to walk than to be dragged. To that extent he had made a choice.”
Ricahrd Drabble QC acted for the intervener.