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Revolting minions


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I’ve heard a couple of reports of dissent in different ranks this week.

Firstly, I’ve heard from two separate sources that UKBA is imposing a ‘success’ rate of 85% on Home Office Presenting Officers, the officials who represent UKBA in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. By success I mean getting the appeal dismissed. This almost unbelievable move comes as part of the move to local immigration teams, and is apparently a requirement of the new Presenting Officer roles being created.

To their credit, many Presenting Officers are reportedly appalled by this target. Around 20% of appeals are successful according to official stats, so they need to beat the average. More importantly, though, this target entirely violates their position as officers of the court with a duty to the court. It also rather seems to contradict the claims of senior UKBA officials that Presenting Officers can concede cases and issues as well as adding new ones (we see a lot of the latter, very little of the former). The target is a clear incentive to press for appeals to be dismissed, even though any given appeal may on the law deserve to be allowed. What if a Presenting Officer ends up dealing with lots of Zimbabwean and Somali cases, for example?

I’d love to see the documentary evidence if anyone wants to email it in. I’d print a physical copy then scan it to avoid any electronic traces being retained.

The other minions to whom I referred in the title of the post are, believe it or not, Senior Immigration Judges. In the new unified tribunal there are two stages of asking for permission to appeal a first instance decision. Both decisions will apparently be made by SIJs, but only certain SIJs will be nominated or selected to decide the second-stage permission applications. How will this selection process take place? Does it create two tiers of SIJs? Will it create bad blood between SIJs (no-one likes to be appealed, after all)? Does anyone else have any sympathy?

The same will apparently apply with fresh claim JRs, to be heard within the new unified tribunal. These will only be heard and decided by specially selected SIJs.

Selected by whom, one has to ask? Will Mark Ockelton be hand-picking the judges as well as selecting all the reported determinations?

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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.


10 Responses

  1. That target is not a new one, it has been around for a long time.

    It was one of the reasons why specialist teams of PO country officers were set up: to ensure that there was the knowledge was there to ‘win’ more cases. Regionalisation has meant that these teams, if they exist, are no longer effective, as other regional priorities take precedence on POs time.

    The target is not applied to individual POs but to the POUs and allowed appeals rates are published for each unit and country.

    The problem with this target is that it discourages POs from seeing the appellants as people, which can only be to the detriment of doing justice to the cases.

    Individual POs can concede certain issues and raise them, but can only concede cases with the permission of a senior or in the case of NAM cases the caseowner, both of which are notoriously difficult to get. This is why in many cases you will find the PO doing little more than relying on the refusal which most judges understand as an effective concession.

    1. Mr E

      “to the detriment of doing justice to the cases”

      I think your point is the crux of the matter. ECOs are not famed for accuracy, neither are the IJs.

      Its good that you are giving us the insider position despite the risk to your career, and this is appreciated.
      Please feel free to drop the “I’m not copying Mr T” bit. Thanks.

    2. And we’re back ! Greetings to you all !

      Targets for PO’s are not new, the expectation has been for years that 85% and 60% of Asylum/Deport and ECO/Immigration cases are dismissed respectively. At the same time this is not really enforced, given (as FM points out) the PO may have a season of un-winnable cases, and in addition to this could (through no fault of his own) consistently come up in front of Guardian reading ‘Allowers’ (Farewell Mr Axtell).

      Conversely a PO could be utterly blundering and incompetent, yet have a string of turkeys in front of a stern (preferably Scottish) “Dismisser” (who take over the cross examination . . . oh … no .. sorry…, I mean that asks lots of questions by way of clarification, “doh ! yes go ahead Sir, of course I found that concerning Sir, you anticipate me Sir, certainly I was going to rely on that Sir”), and will have solid gold stats just by remembering to turn up and rely on the refusal letter.

      The only reliable way on knowing if a PO is any good, is by them being observed by a senior colleague, who has also read the papers (and ideally knows what the Judge is like and if they other side is any good), following which they are given frank and honest feedback.

      UKBA do not recognise PO’s as ‘officers of the court’, nor respect or understand the restraints that they work under when appearing in front of the AIT.

      On the ‘over defensive’ point, I would merely observe that this appears to cut both ways …


  2. Sorry missed this bit.

    As to POs being officers of the court, this is not a way of thinking that is encouraged within the UKBA.

    This is an organisation that refuses to recognise the POs as specialists like accountants or auditors (who get paid better than general HEOs).

    Morale in POUs is at rock bottom and has been for some time but unfortunately no-one seems to want to do anything about this.

  3. We have lomg had targets for dismissed appeals, but they are not PO specific. They relate to the POU. If one POU is doing better or worse, then it can be looked into as to what is making the difference. Nothing has ever happened if these targets weren’t met, the stats are really just for information/training/sharing of expertise/etc.

    This has helped in the past, for example, with the sharing of objective evidence used with good effect in one area to other areas. This is really no different to reps circulating arguments on specific points between each other. Where is the evil in that?

    I really don’t see how these targets could ever become specific to a PO, part of our job description. Indeed, PCS members would refuse to sign such a job spec. Even if it were enforced, it would be ignored by every PO I know.

    We have no control over what cases we get, what judges we get, how good a rep is, how good the decision is – all far more important factors in terms of our allowed/dismissed ratio than what we do ourselves.

    I do resent the contiual suggestion that POs are some kind of snivelling group, subserviant to our lord and master Mr Johnson, without the ability to be professional, impartial and reasonable. If that really is your impression of our breed, can I suggest you get out into the ‘provinces’ more often.

    1. Try reading what he actually wrote.
      Revolting as in wanting to revolt, not as in disgusting and minions in the way that PO’s and IJ’s seniors see them.

      FM has never been anything but supportive of PO’s and is aware of the situation in which we have to operate.

      There are some really crap POs out there who don’t care a jot about justice and see appelants and their representatives as the enemy, and they are in every unit including in the regions, I know as I’ve worked beside them and had to tidy up their messes at reconsiderations.

      Managers have already tried to impose an 85% target on indivdual PO’s but we stood up to them and it went back to the units, there has been a significant culture shift in the UKBA recently and its not for the better.

    2. As pointed out by Mr E, revolting in the sense of ‘in revolt’. It’s a humorous (or not, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion) play on words. Some POs can be a little over-defensive at times, I have noticed…

  4. I am not shocked by this revelation at all! Sure the caseworkers in the home office have targets as to how many people they have to individually remove a year or a month or that sort of thing….and infact, am told they actually get some sort of financial incentive to that effect.

    Now when one considers that they are supposed to look at an immigration subjects case dispassionately or impartially, by which I mean, there ought not to be any preffered end result, but simply applying the law as it ought to in every case, then one can not but feel disgusted that they are paid to have a prefered outcome.

    Surely, thats like giving a judge a target as to the number of people he has to convict in a year, and giving him financial incentives to achieve such targets.

    Now everyone knows where his interests would lay in any given case…..thats exactly how it is with UKBA caseworkers! Now thats what I call revolting!……..and no one from the ILPA thinks that stinks???!!