On 2 April 2020, the Court handed down judgment in D & Ors v The Lord Chancellor & Anor  EWHC 736 (Admin), ordering the First-tier Tribunal to pay the Claimants’ costs in a judicial review challenge to the Tribunal’s policy.
Three clients of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, D, P, and K had brought a challenge to the Tribunal’s policy that no immigration appeals from the firm could be listed at the First-tier Tribunal in Birmingham because two Duncan Lewis Solicitors employees sat as judges part-time at the Tribunal.
The clients challenged this on the basis that the Tribunal had misdirected itself that ‘apparent bias’ arises when a client has a professional relationship with a fee earner at a firm, should that client’s case subsequently be judged by a different fee earner.
They also challenged the policy as being indirectly discriminatory against disabled people and/or single parents, as they would not be able to travel to the hearing centre at Hatton Cross to which their appeal had been moved, and so would not have a fair hearing in their asylum claims. The clients all had specific vulnerabilities which meant it would be difficult for them to attend the hearing at a centre far from their home, including being victims of trafficking and torture, suffering from serious mental health conditions, and having to care for a young child.
The Claimants were granted interim relief, or their cases transferred to different hearing centres, to prevent their appeal hearings going ahead at Hatton Cross.
The Defendant later withdrew its policy preventing cases from being heard at First Tier Tribunal centres which had judges from the same legal firm as the Appellant’s legal representative.
The Claimants submitted that, as they had achieved the relief which they had sought in their judicial review, they should be granted their costs, as is the general rule. Normally however, Claimants are not awarded costs against Courts/Tribunals in judicial review proceedings, and so the Defendant Tribunal argued that costs should not be awarded against them here.
In the judgment of 2 April 2020, the high Court ordered that the Defendant Tribunal should here pay the Claimant’s costs because the Claimants had achieved the relief sought, and the Defendant Tribunal had ceased to act neutrally when it defended its policy.
The team included members of the public law team based in Harrow and Birmingham: directors Ahmed Aydeed and Toufique Hossain, and solicitor Jeremy Bloom, trainee solicitor Simon Robinson, caseworkers Karen Staunton and Eleanor Hanmer. Chris Buttler and Zoe McCallum from Matrix were instructed as counsel.