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Senior President of Tribunals’ Annual Report 2020

Sir Ernest Ryder, the Senior President of Tribunals, published his annual report for 2020 on 29 July 2020.  This is the sixth report and the last of the Senior President’s tenure. The 142 page report can be found: here

Senior President’s Introduction

In the introduction, the report acknowledges the challenges faced during the Covid-19 Pandemic:

“The national emergency of COVID-19 has provided a backdrop for my last six months in office. The response of the tribunals was to ensure that by leadership of the tribunals justice system we could keep the tribunals open providing urgent decision making for our most vulnerable users. We designed a suite of emergency legislative provisions, rule changes, practice directions and guidance to facilitate that aim. Overnight we changed from paper-based face-to-face hearings to remote hearings by audio and video means using new technology and a host of innovative workarounds provided by judges and staff alike. A four-phase recovery plan was published using administrative instructions to explain what we wanted to happen.” 

Review of the Upper Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber by President: Sir Peter Lane

The President, Sir Peter Lane’s report begins at page 16, Annex A.  The report acknowledges the arrival during the summer of 2019 of nine new salaried judges and their “huge contribution”. 

There has been a reduction in the number of appeals and judicial reviews to the UTIAC.  

The UTIAC has benefited from tours undertaken by Queen’s Bench High Court judges and judges of the Court of Sessions:The resulting cross-pollination of knowledge and experience is important.”  The UTIAC continues ‘a close relationship with the Administrative Court’.

The report commends the work of the judiciary in producing new guidance and users as well as with IT projects.  The judiciary remains involved with the international training of judges. 

Review of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber by Judge Michael Clements

The report begins at Annex B, page 45. The President of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (FtTIAC) confirms that appeals before the FtTIAC are “largely human rights based.  The varied case load includes hearing appeals from persons seeking international protection in the United Kingdom (asylum or humanitarian protection), including those who have suffered war or conflict trauma; been trafficked into prostitution or slave labour; been at risk because of gender, religion or sexuality; and appeals from those convicted of serious offences in respect of whom the Secretary of State has decided to make a deportation order and where the tribunal must determine whether the appellant’s other circumstances outweigh the public interest in removal.

In other cases, the Tribunal may be required to decide whether a person should lose their British nationality because of their conduct; whether a family member should be allowed to come to the United Kingdom to enjoy family life. A balancing exercise is frequently required and the Tribunal must establish where the public interest lies (including determining issues such as whether a marriage is genuine; whether EEA Regulations apply and whether there are public security reasons sufficient to justify the removal of an individual from the United Kingdom).

The jurisdiction of the FtTIAC also extends to issues of citizenship, and whether bail should be granted to persons held in immigration detention.

In the period 2019-20 there were 41,895 appeals received, and 49,813 appeals disposed of.

The report speaks of reform – appeals now follow a ‘coherent path’ and are case managed.  Reform has seen the introduction of Appeal Skeleton arguments (ASA).  The needs of those unrepresented remain a key consideration.  

The report emphasises the use of new pilot initiatives, including the introduction of new practice directions, conferring extended powers, new guidance for litigants in person, children as litigants and those with vulnerabilities.  

The report concludes with reference to the Covid-19 pandemic: 

“As alluded to above, this report is being signed off during what is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of not only my presidency, but also to the effective working of the judiciary as a whole, the Covid-19 pandemic. Decisions are being made rapidly to respond to changing news stories and ensure the safety of our judges and our users. I thank my leadership team for their continued efforts and support in this regard and wish my entire Chamber, their families and loved ones, the very best as we tackle this unprecedented turn of events.”

We watch with interest how the Tribunals will continue to deal with reform and operation in light of the challenges faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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