The High Court has awarded indemnity costs* against the Secretary of State for her conduct in a judicial review claim for unlawful detention.
It comes as a Panorama documentary exposes systematic alleged abuse of vulnerable detainees by Home Office contractors G4S at Brook House detention centre near Gatwick Airport.
Vulnerable persons are routinely subjected to indefinite periods of immigration detention, often prolonged by Home Office incompetence and inefficiencies. Detainees with no address to go to are often stuck in detention for extended periods of time due to unexplained Home Office delays in providing them with accommodation.
In the case of R (on the application of YA) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2017) (unreported but covered in the Guardian here), the Claimant was an asylum seeker from Chad and claimed to be a victim of torture in a Libyan prison.
After being detained by the Home Office, he applied for and was granted bail by the Immigration Tribunal, with a direction that the Home Office provide accommodation for him under the power in section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (known as ‘section 4 accommodation’) within 14 days.
(As an aside, the Immigration Tribunal, unlike the Asylum Support Tribunal, has no power to order the Home Office to provide accommodation, but it appears that a forward-thinking Judge was trying to compel the Home Office to do the right thing – ie. release and accommodate YA).
The Home Office failed to do so. He remained stranded in unlawful detention awaiting a section 4 bail address for four more weeks.
During that time, YA brought a judicial review claim challenging his detention. A High Court judge ordered the Home Office to release and accommodate YA within 3 days.
Again, the Home Office failed to do so. They applied twice for extensions of time to arrange the accommodation.
The judge ordered the case back to Court and directed that the Home Office provide written reasons for its failure to comply with the previous Court order.
True to form, the Home Office failed even to comply with that requirement.
At the hearing, they were not represented by a barrister but sent a solicitor from the Government Legal Department, presumably to plead for mercy from the judge, despite having no rights of audience. According to the Guardian:
“I can only apologise,” he said.
It gets worse. The Judge was shown a witness statement from the Home Office stating that YA had been released the day before the hearing. This was news to his legal representatives who had not been informed.
Mrs Justice Nicola Davies expressed deep concern at the length of time the Home Office had taken before YA was released, their “inconceivable” failure to find a barrister to represent them during the summer vacation period when there were lists of counsel available for emergency applications.
Marking the Court’s displeasure, she made an order for indemnity costs as the defendant’s conduct fell “outside the norm”.