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UK Border Agency recruiting barristers for tribunal work


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It will not have escaped the attention of immigration barristers in London that there are some very fresh faces in court acting for the Home Office. ‘Operation Present’ is back, sort of, with the Home Office having recruited a bunch of junior barristers to ensure no case goes uncovered.

Free Movement was sad to see that the application date is passed. Alas, alack, ahem. However, at the time of writing the advert can still be seen on the Bar Council website, as can the job description. Both are preserved here for posterity.

Only very junior barristers were sought. The rates were £125 per day for pupils or £225 for junior barristers of up to two years’ Call. The latter actually beats legal aid rates for non asylum cases and it compares very favourably to junior criminal rates. A minimum of two days work a week was being offered. It isn’t surprising that some have taken the Queen’s shilling.

The job description reveals a ‘success’ rate target of 60%, which would apparently be an improvement on current levels. It is sad to see Home Office ‘success’ (i.e. appeals being dismissed) being the target, rather than truth or justice. Some would say that the Home Office personnel with the power to increase the success rate are not the cannon fodderPresenting Officers on the front line but officials back at HQ making the initial decisions: if they did not get it wrong so often, the Home Office would win more appeals.

The job description also reveals the existence of a document entitled ‘Professional Standards for Presenting Officers’. I was on the verge of making another of those Freedom of Information requests Tony Blair loves so much when I discovered someone had beaten me to it. The document itself along with training course outlines are available here if you want to read them. It won’t take long, the professional standards are, as might be expected by old hands at this, really quite short.

The New Batch are presumably formally briefed by Treasury Solicitors, otherwise their status before the tribunal and as self employed barristers would be doubtful. The job description indicates that this is something of a charade, though, as the person seems to be responsible for his or her own litigation (e.g. complying with directions, filing and serving documents). Litigation is the one thing that barristers still are not permitted by the Bar Standards Board to undertake, so this could be professionally problematic. It is not readily apparent what access the recruits have to UK Border Agency files and databases. One assumes probably full access, as I cannot imagine there are staff at Angel Square and elsewhere tasked with preparing briefs to Counsel.

Word in the Hatton Cross Tesco’s canteen is that after three months of running this pilot, the ‘success’ rate before and after will be compared and lessons learned. One imagines that if the ‘success’ rate is unchanged, the pilot will be discontinued and the cash strapped Border Agency might consider laying off more or all existing Presenting Officers too: there’s no point wasting money on filling chairs at court if it doesn’t affect outcomes. One might also imagine that if the ‘success’ rate ‘improves’, someone in Croydon with a calculator will be adding up the costs of salary, National Insurance, civil service pension contributions, office and support costs, training and so on for full time Presenting Officers and seeing if it works out as more or less than £225 per day per person…

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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.


9 Responses

  1. Barristers for the FTT hearings?……i will be really surprised if gonna change the succes rates and i for one dont think many practioners at hat lever and above will be bothered.

    As the saying has always run, do your job to your best and your opossition has no change.

    For as long as the Immigration lawyers with lower rights of audince cover all the necessary areas for their advocacy,it will make no difference who sits the opposite side nor any succes rates. Shame the UKBA needs to be reminded of their ‘quasi-Judicial’ function,….wonder then thy succes rate is such a bother to them.

    Improving primary decisions would be a realistic area for UKBA to tackle to improve the succes rate at the FTT as long ‘silly’ decisions continue being made, regardless who stands to defend them will alwyas be an uphill struggle for your UKBA….. common bringit on UKBA we ready for you!

  2. As stated by Joe May, improving primary decisions is the key. It does not matter whether it’s a Presenting Officer, Junior Counsel or a QC if the initial decision is so flawed.

    I had an application refused because some bloke at Home Office HQ did not believe that a client of mine was pregnant because we could not produce a birth certificate! (Despite NHS documentation confirming pregnancy). There’s a clue, in the word “pregnancy” as to why a birth certificate cannot be produced.

    It does not matter who represents the HO in a case such as that because the reasoning is so poor.

    Having said that, I can see that there may be some improvement in the success rate in respect of Asylum/Article 3 appeals (as opposed to Immigration cases and non-Article 3 human rights cases) if junior Counsel were to be at hand. On the other hand, ‘Operation Present’ has always, to some extent, applied to Asylum appeals. I don’t think, from limited experience, that I’ve ever seen an asylum appeal without a HOPO. ‘Operation Absent’ tends to apply to Tier 4 appeals, visitor appeals and generic entry clearance appeals etc!

  3. Could anybody enlighten me as to how much would be the Sponsors income requirement for a child applying for settlement from outside the UK on its own (no relevant spouse applying at the same time).

  4. When I was a criminal defence lawyer in the US the prosecution always reminded the jury that whilst my duty was to zealousy represent my client, theirs was one of fairness, truth and justice. I don’t recall where their remit was written, but surely the POs must be bound by similar lofty and more civicly responsible duties. Anyone know?

    1. Mine today certainly wasn’t motivated by anything lofty. We were second on the list and yet she waited and served critical evidence AFTER I’d had my client conference for a video link bail hearing. Bloody disgraceful conduct, a deliberate and calculated ambush. Most are reasonable but a handful are plain nasty and a disgrace to the civil service.

  5. Out of interest FM, would you prefer working with (or against?!) POs or Junior Barristers?

    Appreciate that to you this is asking you to choose the lesser of two evils but I’d be interested…..

    1. It’s difficult to generalise so far. My initial impressions are that Counsel seem better at cross examination, in that they know how to ask a leading question and build to a proper denouement, to focus on relevant issues and to confine questions to the witness’ own knowledge. That makes a hearing less frustrating in one way, but means that a client’s account is more liable to be seriously challenged. On the other hand, they know little about the insane intricacies of immigration law, which the Home Office has made monstrously complex in the last decade or so.