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This post is definitely one for other immigration lawyers. Anyone else will be left thinking ‘diddums!’
There is an ugly rumour abroad that immigration judges at Taylor House doing the CMR list are going to start sending two cases a day to be heard at Yarl’s Wood detention centre near Bedford.
I say this is an ugly rumour. The context is that I would gladly sell my grandmother to get a case heard at Taylor House. It is close to chambers, there are lots of nice coffee shops in which to wait and the judges seem friendlier (this is demonstrably the case in bail hearings). In contrast, the other main hearing centre, near Hatton Cross, takes two and a half hours to get to, the only place to hang out is Tesco’s and the judges on average seem rather severe.
Since the introduction of fixed fees in legally aided immigration work, travel time has made an enormous difference. And travel time to Yarl’s Wood is measured in ice ages rather than hours. This may well be pleasing to some readers out there, but my personal experience is that in many cases is that my hourly rate for many cases has halved, and I really do not seem to ‘win some lose some’ as the Legal Services Commission disingenuously originally suggested. It removes any incentive to prepare well other than professional obligation and pride (admittedly both strong incentives) and is pushing good lawyers away from doing publicly funded immigration work.
If true, this rumour is entirely consistent with the complete disregard the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has shown for the fixed fee arrangements. Some senior figures in the tribunal have emptily whispering that they like all parties to be represented and when fixed fees were introduced promised to look at ways to group cases together and list cases sympathetically. For example, it would help solicitors and barristers enormously if cases in which they are acting could be grouped together or if fixed fee cases were given priority or if better ‘not before’ starting time estimates could be given.
The AIT point blank refuses to do any of this. There was some sort of trial of afternoon lists at Taylor House but it seems to have fizzled out. I suspect immigration judges quite like their normal finishing time of shortly after lunch and aren’t willing to sit longer into the afternoon on a routine basis. Well, a prompt start at 10am would be a good start (SO many judges come down late with no apology), and it might be helpful for them to recognise that the world does not revolve around them.
I am not aware of any other courts that operate in such a cavalier fashion towards lawyers and the public. All other courts seem to have a staggered list with cases grouped for different start times. I’m blogging mainly on behalf of the lawyers, but our clients end up sitting around all day as well, having all been told to turn up at 10am. They also have better things to do than wait around all day.
Lastly, I can’t help thinking that the AIT seems perfectly happy to notify the Home Office in advance which cases are to be heard in the same hearing room so that the Home Office can send just one representative for multiple cases. Why is it that no steps in this direction can be contemplated for appellants’ representatives?