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Press Release – Duncan Lewis (16 October 2013)

Date: 16/10/2013
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Press Release – Duncan Lewis

Aziz Lamari v SSHD

Unlawful Detention – Secretary of State found in Contempt of Court – Award of exemplary damages – final award £25,000 to the Claimant.

“These events constitute an astonishing, wilful and highhanded disregard of the court and the rights of the Claimant. It was simply and plainly outrageous.”

Duncan Lewis’ case of Aziz Lamari v SSHD was handed down today by His Honour Judge Cotter Q.C.

This is the judgment on the issues of quantum following the previous decisions which determined that the Claimant had been detained unlawfully and that the Secretary of State had acted in contempt of court in refusing to release the Claimant in accordance with an undertaking and order made by the Court. The Judge ordered the release as medical evidence confirmed the Claimant was mentally ill and detention was causing a serious deterioration in his health. The Claimant was eventually released and has subsequently returned to Algeria. For the purposes of assessing quantum the overall period of unlawful detention was 23 days.

The Secretary of State had accepted liability for basic and aggravated damages, but denied liability for exemplary damages.

The Claimant has been awarded compensatory and exemplary damages amounting in total to £25,000.

In the decision, the Judge ruled that the conduct of the Secretary of State had amounted to an intentional refusal to comply with the undertaking given and an order of the Court and that she had acted in contempt of court.

The Judge said “It appeared to me that the actions of the Secretary of State amounted to a direct snub to the court without any justification”.

He went on to find that “the Defendant had caused a deterioration in [the Claimant’s] condition and created a serious and significant extra risk of suicide not only by reason of the very fact of continuing detention but also the shock of the failure to abide by the court order and release him”

The Judge stated that “these events constitute an astonishing, wilful and highhanded disregard of the court and the rights of the Claimant and even followed a clear warning from the representative who had been in court of where this would leave the Defendant i.e. in breach. It was simply and plainly outrageous.”

“Worse still the position he was placed in was likely to tempt him to abscond or seek money or food with potential consequences for members of the public. In the absence of any other information as to how events came to pass I consider it as little short of shameful conduct. The courts hear criticism of the approach of other countries to the welfare of individuals pending immigration or asylum decisions with the assumption that such conduct could never occur here”

Iylicia Weston and Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis – solicitors for Claimant
Christopher Jacobs, Landmark Chambers – counsel for Claimant.

In response to the judgement, Toufique Hossain says “the facts of this case are shocking. The judge has quite rightly awarded exemplary damages in case, in addition to having found the Home Secretary to be in contempt of court in the same proceedings last year. We hope the Home Secretary takes this judgment seriously and thinks twice when unlawful detaining people who suffer from serious mental health problems.”

Claimant’s solicitor, Toufique Hossain, is a Public Law Director within Duncan Lewis’ Immigration Department, recommended in the Legal 500 and regularly represents clients in challenging immigration detention.

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