Judgment handed down in CT & Ors v Commissioner for the British Indian Ocean Territory


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CT and RT are asylum seekers of Tamil ethnicity. In September 2021, they boarded a boat with the intention of sailing to Canada. Their boat encountered difficulties and was escorted to Diego Garcia. Since October 2021, they have been detained in a camp the size of a football pitch, along with their two children.

Over the last two and a half years, the children have suffered serious physical and psychological harm, including as a result of sexual abuse.

CT and RT applied for the British Indian Ocean Territory (‘BIOT’) Supreme Court to make orders under its inherent jurisdiction to protect the children. They also applied for judicial review, alleging that the Commissioner for the BIOT has failed, and is failing, to discharge his duties under the Children Act 1989, including a duty to investigate the harms suffered by the children and a duty to implement safeguarding measures.

The Commissioner maintained that he had no statutory child protection duties. It was therefore necessary to determine the applicability of the Children Act 1989 in the BIOT as a preliminary issue in both the proceedings under the inherent jurisdiction and the claim for judicial review.

Ms Margaret Obi, Acting Judge of the BIOT Supreme Court, held that the relevant provisions of the Children Act 1989 do apply in the BIOT [53]:

The primary purpose of the CA 1989 is to ensure that the welfare needs of every child are met and provides the basis in law for most local authority duties and responsibilities towards children and their families in their area. If and when children are present in the BIOT the Commissioner will also be required to meet these objectives. The need to promote and safeguard the welfare of children by providing a range of services appropriate to those children’s needs is the same.

Chris Buttler KC and Jack Boswell represented CT and RT, along with Naomi Wiseman, of 1 King’s Bench Walk, instructed by Duncan Lewis.

The other Claimants were represented by Ben Jaffey KC and Natasha Simonsen, of Blackstone Chambers, and Alexander Laing, of Coram Chambers, instructed by Leigh Day.

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