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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Decision making and appeals  →  Thread

R(S) 8/79 - anyone have a copy?

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Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

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Holds that “undergoing imprisonment or detention in legal custody” requires that the imprisonment must be for a criminal offence for the exclusion from benefit to bite. Still cited in the law volumes - but damned if I can find a copy.

Anyone?

Gareth Morgan
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CEO, Ferret, Cardiff

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From Ferret’s social security law cd-rom.  Too long to post in full.

R(S) 8/79

INVALIDITY BENEFIT

Imprisonment - committal to prison by a magistrates order made under section 64 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1952 by reason of civil contempt of court
The claimant had been committed to prison by an order of a Magistrates Court under section 64 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1952 by reason of his disobedience of an earlier order of magistrates that he pay maintenance for his wife. Invalidity benefit was paid for the period during which he was so imprisoned. The insurance officer reviewed and revised the award on the grounds that the claimant should have been disqualified under section 82(5) (b) of the Social Security Act 1975.
Held that:-
1. the claimant’s imprisonment had nothing to do with a criminal offence, but was for a civil form of contempt of Court (paras 6 and 7);
2. the claimant should not be disqualified for receiving invalidity benefit for the period of his imprisonment under section 82(5)(b) of the Social Security Act 1975, as the Court was not exercising criminal jurisdiction (para 8);
3. the decision awarding invalidity benefit was properly reviewed but should not have been revised (para 9).

DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

....
2. The claimant was at the time in receipt of invalidity benefit, but by an order of the Magistrates’ Court at Penzance dated 14 January 1976 he was ordered to be committed to prison (pursuant to section 64 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1952) for a period of 42 days on account of arrears of maintenance payable to his wife. The order was suspended subject to payment of £13 per week. It seems that the claimant failed to make the required payments and he was in fact committed to prison for the period from 29 March to 7 May 1976 pursuant to the order. He continued however to encash the orders for the payment of invalidity benefit which were in his possession. ....

...
“However the context in which the expression “detention in legal custody” is used in Section 29(1)(b) does indicate that it is not to bear its full meaning since this would have included the preceding terms “penal servitude” and “imprisonment” which would thus have been superfluous. It therefore follows (as was held in Decision CS/16/1948 (reported)) that the expression must be taken to refer only to detention which has some connection with criminal proceedings.”

I am not sure that I follow precisely the logic of this, but I understand the effect of it to be that detention in legal custody has to be construed as ejusdem generis with penal servitude and imprisonment. ... The question whether the habeas corpus test was the right test was thus left open.

4. The point then came before a Tribunal of Commissioners in the case which was the subject of Decision R(S) 3/55, in which the Tribunal accepted the reasoning in Decision R(S) 20/53 and laid down that detention under an order which is not made in criminal proceedings or grounded on any criminal act was not detention in legal custody within the meaning of section 29(1) (b). They seemingly rejected the habeas corpus test, preferring a test whether the detention had anything to do with a criminal offence.

....

...
7. In substance he was in prison by reason of his disobedience of a Court order, a form of contempt of Court. There is a clearly recognised distinction between civil and criminal contempt of court (see Halsbury’s Laws of England (4th Ed.) Vol. 9 page 3), and disobedience of a court order is there included (at page 33) among the civil contempts, though it is recognised (at page 52) that there may be some distinction in the case of disobedience of orders of a magistrates’ court. After some difference of judicial opinion, it was settled by the House of Lords (reversing a majority decision of the Court of Appeal) in Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417 that proceedings for contempt consisting in the breach of an order of the High Court were not a criminal cause or matter..

9. Accordingly although I consider that it was proper to review the decision awarding invalidity benefit to the claimant in the light of his subsequent imprisonment the decision does not fall to be revised and there has been no overpayment. The claimant’s appeal is allowed accordingly.

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Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

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Yes - saw that. My enquiry last April was in relation to a claimant who had periods in immigration detention - i.e. not for a criminal offence but because he was subject to removal. The main issue in the appeals was a complex argument around his immigration status and the affect of that on benefit entitlement. I expected that if we won the appeals (which we did) that DWP would appeal to the UT and at the very least raise an issue of payability for PIP and entitlement for UC for those periods he was in immigration detention - but surprisingly it threw in the towel on all fronts.

Stainsby
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Welfare rights adviser - Plumstead Community Law Centre

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Full copy if anyone is interested

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