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Compensation awarded for hearing cancelled at short notice


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Given my experience on the float list at Hatton Cross this week, this successful complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman makes very interesting reading. An award of £3,600 plus interest for legal costs and £100 for inconvenience was made to a lady whose hearing was cancelled the day before by the court. Waiting around all day only for it later to be cancelled is surely worse, particularly if a load of witnesses and supporters are also put to the same inconvenience?

Also interesting is the prospect of successful compensation from the Home Office where a decision is withdrawn at the last minute but the evidence was served in good time in compliance with directions or where the withdrawal does not relate to new evidence but some other error, such as considering the case under the wrong rule. I have in the past and continue to strongly recommend a complaint to the Ombudsman in these circumstances. The process is explained here. It is necessary to complain to the public authority concerned first and then get the complaint referred to the Ombudsman through a Member of Parliament.

Full text of complaint outcome below for convenience.

An administrative error by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) led to the cancellation of a scheduled court hearing.

What happened

The day before Ms W was due to attend a court hearing, HMCTS contacted her to say it had lost her paperwork and, as a result, the hearing had been postponed. Ms W complained that she had wasted the money she had spent on legal fees related to this hearing. In particular, she complained that she had lost the money she had paid to a barrister who had been due to represent her at the hearing.

What we found

We partly upheld Ms W’s complaint. Although Ms W had been affected by HMCTS’s error, we did not think this meant she had wasted all of the money she had paid. We felt that much of the work done in preparation for the hearing would still be relevant once the hearing was rearranged.

However, we agreed with Ms W that the money she had paid to the barrister had been wasted. This was because Ms W could not have this money refunded to her and, if she wanted a barrister to represent her at another hearing, she would have to pay this money again.

Putting it right

HMCTS apologised to Ms W for the inconvenience its administrative failure had caused her and agreed to pay her £100 for this. It also agreed to pay her £3,600, plus interest, for the money she had paid to the barrister.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.