Controversial use of dental x-rays in age assessment pilot
Solicitors at Simpson Millar LLP regularly represent young people who come into this country on their own. Children in this position are entitled to support and access to services such as education and accommodation. Consequently it is extremely important that they are not wrongly labelled as adults. If there is a dispute over their age we are able to challenge organisations such as social services and the Home Office, and bring legal challenges to decisions where appropriate.
We were very concerned to learn about the Home Office pilot on using dental x-rays for age assessments in Croydon , which was announced on 28 March 2012 and is being implemented from 29 March 2012 onwards. The proposal is to offer to individuals who are assessed by Croydon Council as adults, but who continue to contend that they are children, the opportunity to have a dental x-ray at Guys Hospital.
The Royal College of Radiologists has real concerns about exposing people to radiation for non-medical purposes as no level of radiation is safe . Most of the medical evidence shows that this in an unreliable method for determining age. An additional concern is that, because of the nature of the relationship between a powerful public body such as the Home Office and the individual young person who is trying to prove their age, the pressure on the individual is so great that it is almost impossible for them to give their free consent, especially if they are a child.
Both the Immigration Law Practitioner's Association and the Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health have written to the Home Office outlining their concerns, which focus both on the unethical nature of the proposal and also the fact that such evidence is of very limited value in assessing age. The four Children's Commissioners have also issued a statement expressing their concerns.
If you or anyone you are working with has been contacted with a suggestion that you or they may wish to undergo a dental x-ray to assist an age assessment, we would urge you to obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
You are welcome to contact Victoria Pogge von Strandmann on 0345 357 9450 to discuss your concerns.