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Court of Appeal upholds access to justice for migrants

The Court of Appeal has ruled that migrants have the right to insist on taking legal advice before consenting to removal by the UK Border Agency [UKBA] at less than 72 hours notice.

The case of ‘Medical Justice v the Home Secretary’ related to a UK Border Agency argument that migrants who consented to removal from the UK were in effect waiving their right to legal advice.

The Court of Appeal decided that removal at less than 72 hours notice was insufficient for access to effective legal advice. In doing so it upheld important principles about an individual’s right of access to legal advice and to the courts when facing State action.

Responding to the ruling Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson said the Court of Appeal stood above the criticism by politicians and elements of the media about the courts’ intervention in immigration cases.

“This case shows the need for the courts to protect the rights of the individual, whether an immigrant or anyone else, to have access to legal advice.

The Law Society provided two witness statements to the court. The Society stated that consent has to be real and therefore properly informed by legal advice, particularly when it means that the individual is withdrawing outstanding court challenges.

The Society pointed out that it is simply unsafe for the UKBA to rely upon that consent unless it is properly informed. It is therefore in the UKBA’s own interest to ensure that consent is properly given and recorded. The failure of the UKBA to take steps to ensure that this happens, the failure to contact migrants legal representatives in these cases and the failure to keep proper records of ‘consent’ led to the court challenge.


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