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High Court quashes 'fast-track' deportation scheme

26 July 2010

The policy of 'fast-track' deportation of immigrants without notice, or with virtually no notice, in exceptional cases has been quashed by the High Court.

The UK Border Agency introduced the policy in January this year to deal with cases where they believed deportation could be deliberately frustrated or undermine discipline at immigration and removal centres.

Giving judgment in R (on the application of Medical Justice) v Home Secretary [2010] EWHC 1925 (Admin), Mr Justice Silber noted that the Law Society and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association objected to the policy.

Silber J said that where notice of deportations was reduced or withheld, the UK Border Agency said it would ensure that the legal representative of the claimant was notified of the removal direction “no later than when the person due to be removed was notified”.

Mr Justice Silber said it was “regrettable” that no further consultation took place as this would have shown that the “crucially important practical difficulties for those receiving abridged notice of obtaining access to justice” before being removed.

He concluded that allowing the home secretary to depart from the usual policy of giving 72 hours’ notice prior to removal did not take account of the need to ensure proper access to courts.

“The effect of the 2010 exceptions is that in practice in the limited time available between serving the removal directions and the actual removal, it is frequently almost impossible that somebody served with removal directions will be able to find a lawyer who would be ready, willing and able to provide legal advice within the time available prior to removal let alone in an appropriate case to challenge those removal directions.

“There is a very high risk if not an inevitability that the right of access to justice is being and will be infringed.”

Silber J added that nothing in his judgment cast doubt on the legality of the minimum 72-hour notice period, and the effect of quashing the 2010 exceptions were that those concerned would now be entitled to this notice period.

Emma Ginn, coordinator of Medical Justice, which provides independent advice to immigrants in removal centres, said she was delighted by the ruling.

“It felt like the policy was designed to remove vulnerable people from the country in a way that denied them any real chance to speak to a lawyer. Quite apart from the affront to justice, the cost in human misery was a source of shame.

“Though the ones who paid the highest price were those subjected to this unimaginably cruel procedure, it did not go unnoticed that the seeming belligerence of the Home Office must have cost the public purse significantly – abandoning removal attempts, bringing deportees back to the UK, and the legal fees of avoidable legal proceedings to name but a few.”

However, a spokesman for the Home Office said they would be launching an appeal.

“The policy of making limited exceptions in special circumstances to 72-hour notification of immigration removal has been an important element of our management of removals,” he said.

“The government remains committed to removing individuals with no right to be in the UK as quickly as possible.”

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