The Bail Observation Project has published its second report on immigration bail hearings in the First-tier Tribunal. The critical tenor of the report is revealed by its title: Still a Travesty: Justice in Immigration Bail Hearings.
Between February and October 2012, 24 lay volunteers observed 212 bail hearings in Taylor House, Hatton Cross, Newport and Birmingham. The report provides an interesting qualitative and quantitative analysis of the conduct and management these hearings.
For those with experience of representing applicants in immigration bail hearings, it will not be a surprise to discover that the report’s findings are overwhelmingly negative:
There was substantial variation in the conduct of the hearings and a disturbing lack of consistency in approach and process. There was much disparity between judges. A standard was set by those who maintained their independence, treated all the parties in court with respect and ensured that the process was understood, that interpreting was appropriate and comprehensive and who actively guided those applicants who had no legal representative. However, this was not a common standard. In many instances, the judge did not seem to act independently, but accepted the Home Office case as outlined in the bail summary without question, did not give adequate time for interpreting or help those applicants without legal representation. Some judges were described by observers variously as hectoring or even ranting and rude.
Only one of the recommendations of the first report, published in 2011, was implemented (the issuing of new guidance for judges). In order for justice to be done and be seen to be done in immigration bail hearings, it is vital that a greater number of the recommendations of the second report are followed.