Bar Chair slams ‘unacceptably poor’ Home Office detention decision-making

The UK’s reputation is at risk without reform to the government’s treatment of immigration detainees, the Bar Council warned.

A report commissioned by the Bar Council revealed the widespread concerns of judges and lawyers over the government’s treatment of immigration detainees.

Injustices in Immigration Detention, by Dr Anna Lindley of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, is based on a series of practitioner interviews. The report condemned the inflexible Home Office rules and target-obsessed officials, which according to one judge meant that ‘too many people are being banged up’.

Home Office bail summaries were universally lambasted and judges berated Home Office officials for giving misleading information to tribunals and for presenting them with ‘elliptical nonsense’ when challenging bail applications.

‘Some are quite good… others are incompetent, and some seem to be on some sort of mission to imprison people,’ said one barrister, echoing the perspective of many others.

Other interviewees criticised officials for adhering rigidly to ‘stupid’ codes, overlooking key details and being reluctant to disclose important information at tribunal hearings. Insufficient training and supervision were also blamed for wasting time and taxpayers’ money.

Bar Chair, Andrew Langdon QC said: ‘The Home Office is one of the great offices of state, but the quality of its decision-making is unacceptably poor. Dr Lindley’s research paints a picture of officials acting with little accountability, unable or unwilling to pursue obvious and viable alternatives to detention.’

He said: ‘If we cannot remove or detain people fairly and in accordance with the rule of law, we fail to live up to the standards we expect of others.’

Langdon said the complexity of immigration law and difficulties faced by detainees in obtaining legal advice and representation added to the problems.

‘The UK has an otherwise well-deserved international reputation for upholding the rule of law. By not addressing problems with immigration detention, we put that reputation at risk. We expect other countries to follow the rule of law and so we must practice what we preach,’ he said.

In light of the report, the Bar Council made recommendations, including a 28-day time limit for administrative detention, judicial oversight of detention arrangements and that legal aid for advice and representation should be available for challenging detention decisions.

Apart from the human cost, Langdon said the annual £125m cost of immigration detention and compensation paid to those wrongly detained was a ‘questionable use of scarce public money’.

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