Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

No right to face-to-face legal advice in detention


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

Immigration detainees don’t have a right to face-to-face legal advice, the Court of Appeal has held in R (on the application of SPM) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWCA Civ 764.

SPM was held at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre in early 2022. At the time, there were no nearby firms contracted to provide initial legally aided advice there under the Detention Duty Advice Scheme. SPM could only receive such advice by telephone or videoconferencing. She argued that her detention was unlawful because of a real risk that her common law right of access to justice would be breached if she couldn’t have an in-person legal visit.

SPM lost her case. Her fundamental problem was section 27 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. This says that legal aid services can be provided ‘by telephone or other electronic means’, and there’s no duty to make an individual’s chosen method available. Even without that, the Court said, access to justice didn’t require face-to-face legal advice, particularly where it was initially limited to a 30-minute triage:

I am not persuaded that the lack of an option, in practice, for face-to-face meetings as part of DDAS constituted an impediment to justice or created a real risk of such an impediment. At the most, it was a less than ideal way of carrying out initial legal visits for some of the women at Derwentside for some of the time.

Arrangements have changed at Derwentside; initial advice is now available face-to-face there. If and when the Illegal Migration Bill passes, however it will require a significant increase in detention capacity and, as a result, in legal visits. It remains to be seen whether the Home Office relies on SPM to justify remote-only advice on a much bigger scale.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Deborah Revill

Deborah Revill

Deborah Revill is a specialist immigration barrister at One Pump Court. She works in all areas of immigration law, with a particular interest in Article 8 cases involving Appendix FM, s117B(6), and deportation.