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Important guidance on medical evidence in asylum cases


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JL (medical reports-credibility) China [2013] UKUT 145 (IAC)

Important read for anyone commissioning, writing or relying on medical reports in asylum cases. Official headnote:

(1) Those writing medical reports for use in immigration and asylum appeals should ensure where possible that, before forming their opinions, they study any assessments that have already been made of the appellant’s credibility by the immigration authorities and/or a tribunal judge (SS (Sri Lanka) [2012] EWCA Civ 155 [30]; BN (psychiatric evidence discrepancies) Albania [2010] UKUT 279 (IAC) at [49], [53])). When the materials to which they should have regard include previous determinations by a judge, they should not conduct a running commentary on the reasoning of the judge who has made such findings, but should concentrate on describing and evaluating the medical evidence (IY (Turkey) [2012] EWCA Civ 1560 [37].

(2)   They should also bear in mind that when an advocate wishes to rely on their medical report to support the credibility of an appellant’s account, they will be expected to identify what about it affords support to what the appellant has said and which is not dependent on what the appellant has said to the doctor (HE (DRC, credibility and psychiatric reports) Democratic Republic of Congo [2004] UKAIT 000321). The more a diagnosis is dependent on assuming that the account given by the appellant was to be believed, the less likely it is that significant weight will be attached to it (HH (Ethiopia) [2007] EWCA Civ 306 [23]).

(3)   The authors of such medical reports also need to understand that what is expected of them is a critical and objective analysis of the injuries and/or symptoms displayed. They need to be vigilant that ultimately whether an appellant’s account of the underlying events is or is not credible and plausible is a question of legal appraisal and a matter for the tribunal judge, not the expert doctors (IY [47]; see also HH (Ethiopia) [2007] EWCA Civ 306 [17]-[18]).

(4)   For their part, judges should be aware that, whilst the overall assessment of credibility is for them, medical reports may well involve assessments of the compatibility of the appellant’s account with physical marks or symptoms, or mental condition: (SA (Somalia) [2006] EWCA Civ 1302). If the position were otherwise, the central tenets of the Istanbul Protocol would be misconceived, whenever there was a dispute about claimed causation of scars, and judges could not apply its guidance, contrary to what they are enjoined to do by SA (Somalia). Even where medical experts rely heavily on the account given by the person concerned, that does not mean their reports lack or lose their status as independent evidence, although it may reduce very considerably the weight that can be attached to them.

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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.