Have a question?
033 3772 0409

News

Court declares legal aid arrangements for immigration detainees in prisons to be unlawful (25 February 2021)

Date: 25/02/2021
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Court declares legal aid arrangements for immigration detainees in prisons to be unlawful

In a landmark judgment of the High Court today, Mr Justice Swift declared that the arrangements for immigration detainees held in prisons to access immigration and asylum legal aid are unlawful.

The Claimant, represented by Duncan Lewis Solicitors, was detained in prison and was unable to access a legal aid lawyer for nine and a half months. In that time he represented himself in his asylum claim with dire consequences and was unable to successfully challenge the lawfulness of his detention. He challenged the legal aid arrangements for immigration detainees held in prisons on the basis that they are less favourable than the arrangements in place for those held in immigration removal centres (IRCs). Individuals detained in an IRC have access to an advice surgery that guarantees access to 30 minutes’ legal advice regardless of means or merit. Those detained under immigration powers in a prison do not. Bail for Immigration Detainees made a powerful intervention in the claim.

Mr Justice Swift held that immigration detainees in prisons are less well placed to access legal advice in IRCs, and that the Lord Chancellor had failed to justify the difference in treatment of these two groups. He declared that the Lord Chancellor had breached the Claimant’s right not to be discriminated against under article 14 ECHR, read with articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8.

Jeremy Bloom, the Claimant’s solicitor, said:

We are delighted with the outcome of this case for our client. We also hope that the judgment will lead to an improvement in the access that immigration detainees held in in prisons have to legally aided immigration and asylum representation. The current arrangements are not fit for purpose; they obstruct access to legal aid for some of the most vulnerable individuals and prevent them from effectively challenging the lawfulness of their detention and from advancing their asylum and human rights claims. At present, many of these individuals find it almost impossible to secure legal aid representation.

Before trial, the litigation had already led the Lord Chancellor to announce a wide-ranging review of the legal aid arrangements, with the aim of identifying the best way to provide equal access to high quality specialist immigration and asylum advice to immigration detainees across the detention estate. Mr Justice Swift held that the review was evidence of the Lord Chancellor’s acceptance that the difference in treatment is a significant matter that needs to be addressed, and that this reflects the position at law. The Lord Chancellor has not clarified when this review will be completed and when necessary changes will be implemented.

Duncan Lewis thanks Bail for Immigration Detainees for referring the Claimant to the firm, providing a wealth of evidence which supported the claim and for their intervention in the claim.

The Claimant was represented by Toufique Hossain, Jeremy Bloom and Jonah Mendelsohn in the Public Law Department of Duncan Lewis Solicitors. Chris Buttler at Matrix Chambers and Ali Bandegani at Garden Court were counsel instructed in the case.

Read the full judgment here

Call us now on 033 3772 0409 or click here to send online enquiry.
Duncan Lewis is the trading name of Duncan Lewis (Solicitors) Limited. Registered Office is Spencer House, 29 Grove Hill Road, Harrow, HA1 3BN. Company Reg. No. 3718422. VAT Reg. No. 718729013. A list of the company's Directors is displayed at the registered offices address. Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority . Offices all across London and in major cities in the UK. ©Duncan Lewis >>Legal Disclaimer, Copyright & Privacy Policy. Duncan Lewis do not accept service by email.