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Immigration bar protests “unworkable” remote hearing arrangements


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Barristers working in the immigration tribunal say that emergency measures to keep hearings going are “unworkable”.

Members of the immigration bar have written to First-tier Tribunal President Michael Clements to express deep concern about the arrangements for hearing immigration cases during the coronavirus pandemic.

They point out that barristers submitting a skeleton argument in advance, as the tribunal now requires, risk not getting any legal aid payment for that work if the Home Office concedes or withdraws the decision without a hearing. “Given how precarious practice already is at the junior end of the bar”, the letter says, “this is simply not economically viable”.

It adds that

Some chambers have already felt compelled not to take instructions under such circumstances and it is likely that most barristers will be unable or unwilling to accept publicly funded cases if required to comply with this direction.

The barristers also warn that remote hearings involved witnesses are impractical, saying that “very few that require live evidence to be taken can fairly be done this way”. With witnesses unable to travel to a controlled environment like a lawyer’s office to give their remote evidence, they risk being unable to participate or having to do so from shared accommodation.

The specialists note that there have been different notices on remote working issued by different tribunal hearing centres, and ask the President for “a definitive Practice Direction from you which applies to all hearing centres”.

The letter is signed by 21 different chambers with significant immigration practices.

The signatories

36 Public and Human Rights, The 36 Group

Broadway House Immigration Team

Doughty Street Chambers Immigration Team

Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team

Garden Court North Chambers Immigration Team

Goldsmith Chambers Immigration Team

Justitia Chambers

Kenworthy’s Chambers

Lamb Building Immigration Practice Group

Matrix Chambers Immigration Team

No. 5 Immigration Group

No. 8 Immigration Team

One Pump Court Immigration Team

Trinity Chambers

10 King’s Bench Walk immigration team

Church Court Chambers immigration team

Landmark Chambers immigration team

Drystone Chambers immigration team

4 King’s Bench Walk immigration team

1 MCB Chambers immigration team

Richmond Chambers LLP

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.