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Judging the judges


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A fascinating article has appeared in The Irish Times. Several tribunal chairmen — the Irish have wisely not glorified their tribunal staff with the misplaced title of ‘judges’ and I will call them adjudicators here — have resigned on the back of the Irish supreme court ordering disclosure (to the High Court, not to the public, it would seem) of the allow/dismiss rate for their highest earning adjudicator, Jim Nicholson.

The Refugee Legal Service over there believes that Nicholson and some other adjudicators have close to a 100% rejection rate. They have managed to litigate the issue through three asylum seekers who have challenged Nicholson’s decisions in their cases on the grounds of bias.

This is EXTREMELY interesting. I could name a few well-known home-grown refusers over here (in fact I’m too afraid of my professional regulator to do that, I’m afraid), although I’m not sure any of them have quite the reputation of this Nicholson chap. I can’t immediately think of anyone with nearly a 100% refusal rate. Apart from Mr W, when sitting on bail cases.

British immigration lawyers have occasionally debated the virtues of a similar challenge, or a campaign for release of statitisics on individual judges. The Canadians do actually publish similar statistics. The view has been forcefully expressed that a similar move in the UK might prove counter-productive; the media would quickly clamp their rabid jaws around generous immigration judges, of whom there are a few. Being relatively hardline compared against one’s colleagues would be seen as a badge of honour by the person concerned.

Good on the Refugee Legal Service, say I, if Nicholson really has been dismissing such a high number of cases. I can’t believe that there were so few genuine refugees amongst those who were unlucky enough to come before him. I sincerely hope nothing bad happened to any of 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.