Clause 24 - Accelerated detained appeals

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 26 Hydref 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office) 3:45, 26 Hydref 2021

We oppose the clause. It seeks the return of the detained fast-track system and to recreate it in primary legislation. The clause imposes a duty on the tribunal procedure rules committee to make rules for an accelerated timeframe for certain appeals made from detention that are considered suitable for consideration within that timeframe.

In the explanatory notes, an accelerated detained appeal is defined as being

“an appeal brought by an appellant who…received a refusal of their asylum claim while in detention…remains in detention under a relevant detention provision…is appealing a decision which was certified by the Secretary of State as suitable for an accelerated detained appeal”.

That system previously existed but was found to be illegal by the High Court in a landmark case brought by Detention Action. The system was found to be unfair as asylum and human rights appeals were disposed of too quickly to be fair. The Court of Appeal described the timetable for such appeals as

“so tight that it is inevitable that a significant number of appellants will be denied a fair opportunity to present their cases”.

It also emphasised, perhaps instructively for this Committee, that speed and efficiency must not trump justice and fairness—something of a feature of part 2 of the Bill. Indeed, hundreds if not thousands of cases have had to be reconsidered by the Home Office or the tribunal because they were unfairly rushed through the process that the Government now seek to recreate. Those cases include survivors of trafficking and torture and other individuals who, on the basis of a rushed and unfair procedure, will have been removed to places where they fear persecution or are separated from their families. There was no adequate system for ensuring that such people were removed from the fast track and given a fair opportunity to present their claims.

Despite that background, the Bill aims to create this unjust and ineffective procedure by reintroducing the detained fast-track process through this clause. It will put that same system, which was deemed unlawful in 2015, on a statutory footing, which will insulate it against future legal challenges.

The clause provides for the Secretary of State to certify a decision if she considers that an appeal would be disposed of expeditiously. It requires the tribunal procedure committee to introduce the following time limits: a notice of appeal must be lodged no later than five working days after the decision was received; the tribunal must make a decision no later than 25 days after the appeal date; and an application for permission to appeal to the upper tribunal must be determined by the first-tier tribunal not later than 20 working days after the applicant was given notice of the tribunal’s decision.

The clause would deny access to justice. First, five days is insufficient to prepare an appeal against a negative decision, particularly where the individual is detained and where their access to legal advice is poor and an individual’s wellbeing may be affected by their detention. For those detained in prison, the situation is even worse. For example, in a case in February of this year, the High Court declared the lack of legal aid immigration advice for people held under immigration powers to be unlawful. More widely, Home Office decision making is frequently incorrect or unlawful. As we know, half of all appeals against immigration decisions were successful in the year leading up to June 2019. It is therefore vital that people are able to effectively challenge decisions through the courts.

The detained fast track is unjust. It is also unnecessary. As the Public Law Project and Justice have pointed out, the tribunal has adequate case management powers to deal with appeals expeditiously in appropriate cases and already prioritises detained cases. The Home Secretary should not be trying to force the hand of the independent tribunal procedures committee to stack the cards in her favour in appeals against her decisions. The Bill does not learn the lessons of the past and seeks to resurrect an unworkable system of accelerated detained appeals. The clause proposes that the appeals process be fast-tracked. I am very worried that provisions in part 2 of the Bill will therefore disadvantage the most vulnerable.

By allowing the Home Secretary to accelerate appeals when she thinks they would be disposed of expeditiously, the clause is clearly unjust. Once again, it also seems to violate the refugee convention. As my hon. Friend Matt Western said on Second Reading:

“It is more than regrettable that the convention appears now to be held in such little regard by this Government.”—[Official Report, 19 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 769.]

For those reasons, we will oppose that the clause stand part.