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UK Border Agency recruiting barristers for tribunal work

UK Border Agency recruiting barristers for tribunal work

It will not have escaped the attention of immigration barristers in London that there are some very fresh faces in court acting for the Home Office. ‘Operation Present’ is back, sort of, with the Home Office having recruited a bunch of junior barristers to ensure no case goes uncovered.

Free Movement was sad to see that the application date is passed. Alas, alack, ahem. However, at the time of writing the advert can still be seen on the Bar Council website, as can the job description. Both are preserved here for posterity.

Only very junior barristers were sought. The rates were £125 per day for pupils or £225 for junior barristers of up to two years’ Call. The latter actually beats legal aid rates for non asylum cases and it compares very favourably to junior criminal rates. A minimum of two days work a week was being offered. It isn’t surprising that some have taken the Queen’s shilling.

The job description reveals a ‘success’ rate target of 60%, which would apparently be an improvement on current levels. It is sad to see Home Office ‘success’ (i.e. appeals being dismissed) being the target, rather than truth or justice. Some would say that the Home Office personnel with the power to increase the success rate are not the cannon fodderPresenting Officers on the front line but officials back at HQ making the initial decisions: if they did not get it wrong so often, the Home Office would win more appeals.

The job description also reveals the existence of a document entitled ‘Professional Standards for Presenting Officers’. I was on the verge of making another of those Freedom of Information requests Tony Blair loves so much when I discovered someone had beaten me to it. The document itself along with training course outlines are available here if you want to read them. It won’t take long, the professional standards are, as might be expected by old hands at this, really quite short.

The New Batch are presumably formally briefed by Treasury Solicitors, otherwise their status before the tribunal and as self employed barristers would be doubtful. The job description indicates that this is something of a charade, though, as the person seems to be responsible for his or her own litigation (e.g. complying with directions, filing and serving documents). Litigation is the one thing that barristers still are not permitted by the Bar Standards Board to undertake, so this could be professionally problematic. It is not readily apparent what access the recruits have to UK Border Agency files and databases. One assumes probably full access, as I cannot imagine there are staff at Angel Square and elsewhere tasked with preparing briefs to Counsel.

Word in the Hatton Cross Tesco’s canteen is that after three months of running this pilot, the ‘success’ rate before and after will be compared and lessons learned. One imagines that if the ‘success’ rate is unchanged, the pilot will be discontinued and the cash strapped Border Agency might consider laying off more or all existing Presenting Officers too: there’s no point wasting money on filling chairs at court if it doesn’t affect outcomes. One might also imagine that if the ‘success’ rate ‘improves’, someone in Croydon with a calculator will be adding up the costs of salary, National Insurance, civil service pension contributions, office and support costs, training and so on for full time Presenting Officers and seeing if it works out as more or less than £225 per day per person…

Free Movement

The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.

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