Duncan Lewis is pleased to announce that Public Law Solicitor Lewis Kett has been shortlisted for Legal Aid Newcomer at the forthcoming Legal Aid Practitioners Group Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) Awards.
Lewis has established a remarkable reputation in bringing difficult cases for vulnerable and marginalised groups and has a formidable catalogue of high-profile cases under his belt.
In collaboration with legal aid firm Bhatt Murphy and the NGO Medical Justice, Lewis was a lead solicitor in litigation which challenged the Home Office’s policy to disregard torture carried out by non-state agents when considering whether or not asylum-seekers should be detained. Lewis successfully applied for an interim order suspending the new definition of torture, resulting in the release of hundreds of detainees. In the final judgment, the High Court held that the new definition and policy was unlawful, with ‘no rational or evidence base.’ This challenge also exposed the fact that the ‘Adults at Risk’ policy has, in many key areas, actually weakened safeguards for vulnerable people.
Lewis also challenged the abuse of the Secretary of State for the Home Department’s power to remove immigration detainees from association, by placing them in isolation cells. The High Court held that the Secretary of State had unlawfully acted in breach of his client’s human rights by locking her up in segregation for too long. This was the first successful challenge to segregation in immigration detention.
Late last year BBC Panorama exposed the abuse of detainees by detention staff at Brook House IRC. Lewis has lodged a judicial review to challenge the failure of the Home Office to implement a judicial public inquiry into the abuse such that would satisfy the state’s positive obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition, Lewis was one of the leading solicitors in a successful high-profile challenge earlier this year to the conditions and lock-in regime at Brook House. The High Court held that the Home Office had failed to consider the rights of Muslim detainees, and the court compelled the Home Office to implement a ban on smoking in the centres, holding that the practice had been unlawfully permitted for nine years.
Lewis is currently directing his energy towards the Home Office’s approach to the detention of stateless persons. He hopes, through his challenge in the Court of Appeal, to prevent stateless persons from being unlawfully held in immigration detention given that there is no country to which they can be removed. Last year, he participated in a seminar at a conference on statelessness in Budapest, held by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), a wide collective of European-based lawyers, politicians and NGOs.
Lewis’ talent as a lawyer has already been recognised. While still a trainee solicitor, he was The Times newspaper’s ‘Lawyer of the Week’ in April 2016. This was in relation to the challenge to the Home Office’s approach to asylum claims from former Afghan interpreters who had assisted Coalition forces and were now seeking our protection. The Home Office now include interpreters as a specific risk factor within their policy guidance on Afghanistan.
Lewis’ passion for justice has taken him beyond the UK. In October 2016, Lewis led a group of eight lawyers to the Calais ‘Jungle’, to give advice and support to unaccompanied refugee children in their applications to come to the UK under the ‘Dubs Amendment’, with a view to pressing the government to fulfil its statutory obligations. The resulting litigation challenging the Home Office’s exclusive policy and decision-making with regards to the Dubs Amendment is on-going.
Lewis’s work has already benefited thousands of asylum-seekers. In the face of legal aid cuts, it is a cause for celebration to see an inspired, passionate and able lawyer like Lewis fighting for these vulnerable groups and making a genuine difference.
The LALY Awards
The LALY Awards represent an opportunity to honour and celebrate the work of those who have dedicated their careers to getting access to justice for those who need it most.
Winners will be announced on Tuesday, 17 July 2018.