In this case, the first interested party, SF, had been aged 18 in 2007 and had been detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.  At that time, the second interested party was the relevant local social services authority (LSSA) for the purposes of section 117(3) of the Mental Health Act 1983.  SF was later discharged from that detention.  In September 2009, the second interested party placed SF at a residential college.  At that time, the claimant local authority was the LSSA, as SF was resident within its boundary.  SF attempted suicide.  When she was discharged from hospital, SF was moved, with her consent to an NHS hospital that provided short term treatment for patients with learning difficulties within the area of the respondent local authority.  SF did not have learning difficulties.  It was likely that  if SF had not consented to being moved to the hospital, compulsory powers would have been used.  On 23 October Her college placement was terminated, along with her licence to reside at the hall of residence.  On 9 December SF absconded from the hospital and refused to return there.  On 10 December, when she failed to return to the hospital, SF was detained for assessment there under section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983.  At that stage, the second interested party still accepted responsibility for SF as being the relevant LSSA.  SF was later detained for treatment under section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.  In November 2010, the respondent local authority issued a position statement which suggested that the claimant local authority was the relevant LSSA and therefore bound under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to provide SF with after-care services following her eventual release from compulsory detention.  The claimant local authority sought judicial review of that decision.  The application was dismissed.  The judge held that SF had not changed her residence after she moved to the hospital as her admission, although not compulsory, had been closely analogous to a compulsory admission.  Also, the hospital was, by its nature, intended to be short term accommodation and was not ideally suited to SF’s needs.  Also, although SF had been admitted to the hospital voluntarily, that did not amount to her having become resident there, either immediately or when the hall of residence had no longer been available to her.  The claimant local authority appealed.

The claimant local authority submitted that the judge had been wrong to ask himself whether from 23 October to 10 December 2009 SF had been in hospital as part of the regular order of her life for the time being and, alternatively, if that had been the correct question, he had given the wrong answer to it.  The claimant local authority also submitted that SF could not have been resident in its area after 23 October 2009 as there was no accommodation within its area available to her after that time.  Consideration was given to the cases of Shah v Barnet London Borough Council [1983] 1 All ER 226 and Mohamed v Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council [2002] 1 All ER 176.

The appeal was allowed.  It was held: (1) The test set out in the Shah case was not a helpful guide to the meaning of “is resident” in section 117(3) of the Mental Health Act 1983.  The Mohamed case was more helpful and relevant.  A person could not have more than one residence for the purposes of section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983, whereas for other legislative purposes a person could be resident in two different places at the same time.  In general, when considering any case in which there was doubt as to the place of a person’s residence, the question was not only that of physical presence and it might be relevant to consider why the person was where her or she was and to what extent his or her presence was voluntary.  The judge had been wrong to ignore the fact that, while SF was in the hospital as a voluntary patient, she had ceased to have any other place of residence available to her on 23 October 2009, so that from that date onwards there was no alternative to regarding SF as a resident of the hospital, unless she was to be regarded as not resident anywhere.  The case of no residence was a last resort which should not be held to apply except in extreme and clear circumstances.  The judge had applied the guidance from the Shah case in preference to that from the Mohamed case.  The judge’s reasoning had not been correct.  (2) In addressing the question of where a patient was resident, a date earlier than the moment of detention could not be adopted as the date at which it was necessary or legitimate to answer that question.  In this case, after 23 October 2009, there had been no place available which could have been regarded as being where SF was resident other than the hospital.  It was decided that a declaration would be made that the respondent local authority was the LSSA relevant for the purposes of section 117(3) of the Mental Health Act 1983 in relation to SF.