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No notice removals case


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R (on the application of Medical Justice) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWHC 1925 (Admin) should be a wake up call to civil servants at UKBA and Ministers in the new Government. The High Court declared unlawful the Home Office policy of conducting no notice removals. The judgment lacks the pithy and stirring qualities of the best judgments of the higher courts (this is a first instance judgment, after all, and the issues had not yet been narrowed), but it clearly sets out the principles of the right of access to justice in a democratic society.

Sadly, rather than heed this call, the Home Office has chosen to appeal. The Coalition Government’s record may be better than the last Government – but that isn’t exactly saying much!

The evidence of the excellent Steve Bravery, Sheona York, Jo Swaney and Sonal Ghelani was accepted, which was that it is impossible to give legal assistance to a person inside a 72 hour period, never mind once they are in a van on the way to the airport. Mr Justice Silber holds that this is a breach of the right of access to the courts, itself a fundamental component of the rule of law. Interestingly, the judgment explicitly reserves judgment on whether even 72 hours is sufficient notice to comply with the right of access to the courts.

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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.


3 Responses

  1. FM

    Yes the last admininstration were poor, but your perspective on the coalition keeps changing from week to week. Is Ms T May keeping you on your toes?

    Since the site is lacking comments of late, here’s mine:

    Having predicted that the CTA scapping would not happen, that COA would go after the fee was scrapped, I suspect this no-notice removals case will be lost by the HO.

    For me it will be interesting to see what happens to the 72 hours (3 days) period. I think labour will be asking for 42 days !

    1. Tis true, I do have apparently conflicting views on the present lot. In fact I think I’m fairly consistent, though. I think the last lot were terrible on immigration, the rule of law and on civil liberties. The current lot are a lot better on the rule of law and civil liberties. Even on immigration, at least the current lot are being up front about their intentions, although the English language requirement for spouses looks to me like a back door reduction in numbers.

  2. I like Silber’s judgment – it deals thoroughly with all of the evidence and reasonably concludes that access to justice is curtailed when there is less than 72 hours notice.

    It is interesting how the demise of RMJ played a role. It went into administration during the hearing of this case and served only to re-emphasise how difficult it is to get quality, short-notice legal advice.

    As regards the specific mention of 72 hours, the Home Office knows that 72 hours is the REAL target in this case. Unseating the zero-notice policy is relatively straight-forward since it inherently restricts access to justice. However, doing away with 72 hours is a bigger challenge – and yet most of the arguments deployed in this case could easily apply to that policy… UKBA will be worried.