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No PO… still


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There was another story on the scarcity of Home Office Presenting Officers, this time in The Sunday Times. I’ve blogged about this before. They do seem to be a bit of an endangered species at the moment, and unlike most animals on the endangered list also seem to be well aware of the issue. The decline in numbers continues, though: I have had two asylum cases in the last fortnight where no PO turned up.

I disagree with the two quoted barristers, if that is what they actually said and meant. I still prefer there to be a PO at hearings. As I wrote previously:

My fear is that the immigration judge will feel he or she has to do the cross examination him or herself, which almost inevitably leads the judge ‘into the arena’, as we say. Personally participating in the proceedings inadvertently causes the judge to start seeing those proceedings from the perspective of a party. It is one thing to hear a witness fudge someone else’s imperfectly asked question; it is quite another when the bugger dodges one’s own brilliantly composed query.

And I sort of miss some of them, I find myself surprised to admit. Seeing one of the few remaining ones induces an unholy combination of fondness for old times and the satisfaction of the Twitcher in seeing a rare foreign migrant on a bleached Hebridean beach. I try to be especially nice these days, at least before the hearing commences.

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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.


23 Responses

  1. PO’s are no longer seen as a valued part of the process there is no longer any standardisation across the country, the networks of specialist country officers has been left to fall apart and regional targets are king (so if it is a choice between representing on a case owned by the North West or by London the local case takes priority).

    As to non-asylum and deportation cases, the targets aren’t important so only if someone is left over is there representation in day to day immigration cases

    Recruitment of PO’s comes second to NAM / Regional Asylum Teams (or whatever they are calling themselves this week) and the morale of those who are left is rock bottom.

    The fact that at least one highly regarded PO has recently been paid off rather then the UKBA meeting its statutory obligations to a disabled member of staff sort of lets you know where their priorities lie.

  2. Obviously para 2 of my post should read non-deportation as there is nothing more important than deporting those FNP’s

  3. Adam Pipe appears almost exclusively in Birmingham, and we have had 100% court coverage for at least the last 18 months. This was pointed out to him yesterday, and he says he was ‘misquoted’. He’s a good sort so I’ve no doubt he was.

    The above commenter obviously has had a raw deal from regionalisation. In the Midlands, the decision has actually been taken that POs are essential, and HEO level NAM caseowners less so, and so our jobs have been secured (well as secure as you can be a fortnight before an election…), whereas a lot of caseowners are being told to find new jobs. I understand that in London it has gone the other way. I’m not sure how management justify the difference between regions.

    I think the stats in the article are a bit iffy as well. Can it really be true that only 2 lists were covered at Taylor House on nay day? Surely it is not that bad? Even if it happened once, then it must have been an exception rather than rule.

    The thing that gets my goat, is the suggestion from a tory supporting murdoch paper that it is outrageous that we are not covering every case. Have they ascertained from Cameron how much he will be increasing UKBA’s budget by so more POs can be recruited? Thought not.

    I also like the way it is put down to ‘Home Office incompetence’, as if there is a great mass of unutilised POs who would go to court if onl ythey could find their way out of the office and into the court.

    1. I always take a look at the list of courts with HOPO cover on my way in to Taylor House these days and I think I did see just two courts being covered a couple of weeks ago. The numbers really are very low at the moment in London. I had two asylum cases within a week of each other where there was no HOPO allocated. It is interesting that there is such regional variation, though. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised on my trips to Birmingham that there has always been a HOPO!

    2. It is regularly occuring at Taylor House now, last week for instance had 6, 8, 6, 7 and 4 courts covered. It is a very sad, yet very true stat.

  4. I explained to the journalist that in Birmingham there was normally a HOPO. I also told him that I felt not having a PO was a bad thing as led to Judges doing the cross-examination and further appeals. He clearly had an angle. I did agree that on occasions it was good for my client when no PO as there would be no cross-examination and of course this is the only bit quoted. He was also conflating immigration cases with asylum cases and did not understand the difference between removal and deportation.

  5. Its nice to hear that Birmingham you have 100% representation unfortunately this is not the case at other courts where regularly less than 50% of courts have been covered, including I believe Stoke, one of the other courts covered by the midlands region.

  6. Is this situation not the problem but the result of other problems.

    -charge too high a fee, and refusals will get appealed.

    -Cancel DP5/96 for example, and appeals get invoked under ECHR art.8.

    -Poor decision making by ECOs pressurised into hitting secret targets / quotas at their posts.

    -the natural inefficiencies of our HO not being co-operative or constructive with applicants

    -the poor quality of judges in immigration circles, resulting in another appeal.

    So are there too few PO’s or too many “unnecessary” appeals?

    1. I have a feeling that this may be the Tory plan for making sure that all appeals are covered.

      Not to increase our budgets to ensure more POs, but reduce appeal rights to ensure fewer lists need to be covered.

      You think the Labour-led HO have been bad?…
      I honestly cannot get my head around the fact that Chris Grayling might be my boss in a matter of days.

    2. Provincial PO

      “You think the Labour-led HO have been bad?…”

      FM and myself are probably in agreement, very bad.

      Could the HO get much worse even if it tried, whoever was in power? (Except BNP)

    3. I’m pretty sure that aspects of immigration law and practice could get a lot worse. I’m not sure that the bureaucracy of UKBA could get any more Byzantine, though.

    4. I can’t get my head round Chris Grayling being your boss in a few days time either, although I doubt that is much consolation. It would certainly be interesting to see what happens to UKBA staffing levels, legal aid, the tribunal budget and the much delayed new all-encompassing Immigration Act civil servants have up their sleeve at the Home Office. Who would want to live in Interesting Times, though?

  7. The staff at the UKBA are incompetent or unable to understand simple English and immigration law. They make awfull decisions and clog up the system due to their inability to understand simple laws i.e EU Law

    1. Your simple English spelling is none too good yourself, I have to point out

    2. If you think EU law is simple you obviously have never had to work with it.

    3. So tell me why a lot of appeals are being allowed, most of these appeals are filed by the appellants and not solicitors. I recently helped three fellows win their AIT appeals and I am not a solicitor. To freemovement, did I hit a nerve.

    4. Nope, but ‘awfull’ only has one ‘l’ and you were criticising the ability of others to understand simple English…

    5. Understanding and writing are quite different, i put two Ls and that is all you can come with. Please get serious. It was a spelling error.

    6. Gabriel

      Clearly you have not met each individual staff member at the UKBA so I am not sure how you are in a position to tar an entire agency with the same brush.

      Whilst a PO I met numerous Counsel who were incompetent yet I would not go so far as to say that they are ALL incompetent.

      Of course the UKBA agency has some incompetent staff who make awful decisions but there are incompetent people in all organisations, dare I say it, even in yours.

    7. True, but there is still a lot of incompetence in the system and it has greatly contributed to a clogged up and inefficient home office.

    8. As someone who worked for the UKBA for a considerable time I would disagree. There is some incompetence within the UKBA but this is a relatively minor factor in the ‘clogged up and inefficient home office’. My experience is that bigger contributing factor is lack of staff and a lack of leadership from those at the top.

      Poor leadership from a few individuals at the top can give the impression that the many at the bottom are ‘incompetent’.