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Domestic violence case


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I’ve been so busy I forgot to post a link to this recent piece on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free site.

I have an excuse to mention that now because the Court of Appeal has considered and rejected an appeal against findings by Immigration Judge Woodcraft in a domestic violence case, AN (Pakistan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 757. This particular judge was the subject of damning criticism in the earlier case of Y and Another (Sri Lanka) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] EWCA Civ 362, which is one of those cases I wanted to report at the time but never quite managed. In the more recent case the Court rejected similar criticism but did state as follows:

It is true that some of the points relied on by the judge, in particular as regards discrepancies in the appellant’s account, are relatively weak and it is possible that a different judge might have been more favourable to her. But there is nothing in the judge’s analysis that could justify a finding that he was striving to reject the appellant’s evidence rather than to evaluate it or was approaching the matter otherwise than in a proper judicial manner.

Unfortunately, this is commonplace in domestic violence and asylum cases, where some determinations read similarly to Home Office reasons for refusal letters: as if the decision maker has rejected the account and is now scrabbling around looking for reasons to justify the outcome. The problem is that domestic violence and persecution are outside the experience of most asylum decision makers, and victims often act in ways that seem odd to others. For example, there is no rational reason why a woman would stay with an abusive partner. But many do, obviously, sometimes through many years of abuse. This could be rejected out of hand as ‘implausible’ behaviour, but an examination of other cases shows that it is commonplace and part of the nature of domestic violence.

I’m fed up of drafting grounds of appeal for cases where the judge has minutely deconstructed events, confused ‘not probable’ with ‘implausible’, paid only lip service to the standard of proof and thinks that he or she is a good judge of how an abusive man might act or how security services in a foreign country might behave!

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


4 Responses

  1. The comments after your piece are all pretty depressing.

    I hate reading the CIF comments, but like rubber neckers with a car crash, just can’t help myself!

    1. me too. They just make horribly addictive reading then I curse myself for wasting so much time!

  2. domestic violence is a very complex subject and i’m not surprised at some of the poor judgement of some decision makers, who know nothing and don’t really appear to want to know further.

    and also to note (admittedly in my limited experience) they seem to hold an assumption that english people in any way involved with asylum applicants are in the main, also liars and deceivers.
    when you have-and do-live an honest life it’s really a shocking and terrible thing not to be believed and have your own credibility called into question. find that really difficult to get my head around…

    it’s not really a world i’m very used to, but i bet thats a shocking reality for most asylum applicants..

    and as for (especially unmoderated) comments, i
    don’t get involved, as i think you could really get into some pretty heated disagreements if you do get involved,so i don’t.

    ive made it a rule not to read comments on general boards and the odd occasion i have contributed, i don’t ever go back to re-read my own comments.

  3. I always hated having to do domestic violence cases as do many other people I know. Not through any lack of respect for the appellant but more because they are so hard to prove for either side, particularly when you can’t get the other parties side of the story.

    Also HOPOs often have letters on file explaining the other side but which we are unable to disclose because the person is scared of reprisals.

    This is also the case when faced with an sponsor, particularly from the sub continent, who is supporting an application for their spouse but has written to us explaining they don’t want the person over. When that person is being followed by a family member everywhere it is very difficult for the HOPO to elicit this evidence from the sponsor and unless you have a very perceptive judge it tends not to be noticed.

    Sometimes there is a good reason why the hopo is being difficult in these cases, and they can’t tell the representative because they are actually acting on behalf of the appellant not the sponsor.