Friday, April 22, 2016

How Britain stacks the legal deck

Proper reporting of legal cases is just something we take for granted in a democratic society under the rule of law. Its just a basic function of the legal system, part of everyone being able to know what the law means and what the government is allowed to do. But Britain isn't such a society - and so over there, its government interferes with judicial reporting in an effort to stack the legal deck:

At some point, the reporting committee decided not to report the case of Qadir & SM vs the secretary of state for the home department. As I reported last month, this case proved that the Home Office had deported thousands – probably tens of thousands – of people on the basis of a scrap of hearsay evidence. It had accused students of fraud, put a black mark against their name which would prevent them being accepted into other countries, conducted dawn raids against them, separated husbands from wives, put many in detention, and then deported them. It did all this without giving them their day in court. Their only right of appeal was out-of-country.

Thousands of others were waiting on the result of the Qadir case so they could use it to fight their own appeal. After all, the case had seen the witness testimony of two Home Office officials - Rebecca Collings and Peter Milinton –branded unscientific and useless. These two witness statements were used against all the other people accused of fraud. If they were deemed useless in this case, surely they would also be useless in all the other cases?


But it won't, because the reporting committee is refusing to report it. The decision means that the case cannot be cited, except under very strict and laborious conditions, in other appeals. It means many thousands of people who have been unjustly deported will not even know of its existence. The decision makes the ruling against Theresa May legally useless. It’s as if it never happened. The reporting committee has taken a damning judgement against the home secretary and buried it.

It gets worse. Because this isn't the only case they've buried. It appears the upper tribunal (which deals with immigration appeals) has systematically been reporting rulings favourable to the government, while refusing to report rulings against it. Which makes those rulings difficult to use as precedents in future cases. And naturally, the committee which makes these decisions is secret, uncontactable, invisible. Which is how you exercise power without accountability.

Of course, the UK has a Freedom of Information Act, so the identity of the committee, their contact details, their criteria for reporting decisions, and their discussions with the Home Office about this case are all (in theory) obtainable - likely after several years delay and several legal appeals. But in the meantime, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people will be unjustly deported, because the precedent which could have saved them was suppressed. Just another example of how the UK isn't really a proper, democratic society.