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Judicial Review

What is a judicial review?

A judicial review is a type of legal challenge where an individual asks the High Court or Upper Tribunal to review the lawfulness of a decision, action or failure to act of a public body or government department. It can also be used to challenge secondary legislation, the immigration rules or policy, or the compatibility of an act of Parliament with the Convention rights under the ECHR.

This can only be used where there is no avenue of appeal or where all avenues of appeal have been exhausted. It is different from a statutory appeal because the court should not normally substitute what it thinks is the ‘correct’ decision, it will only decide if the decision made was lawful.

The judicial review process challenges the way a decision has been made and whether in fact the correct laws and procedures were used to reach that decision. The Judicial Review’s function is not to determine whether the outcome was necessarily correct.

When a judicial review may be suitable

  • If you have been told your asylum claim will be transferred to another European country under the Dublin regulations, and you wish to argue your human rights will be breached in that country.

  • If your asylum claim has been certified (no right of appeal within the UK)

  • If your further submissions have been rejected as not a fresh claim, with no right of appeal

  • If you have been detained unlawfully

  • If you have been refused permission to appeal at the Upper Tribunal

  • To try and challenge an imminent removal (apply for interim relief – an injunction). See below.

  • Your immigration application has been refused and you have no right of appeal on human rights grounds.

This is a very complex area of law and early preparation is the key. Having the assistance of an experienced immigration solicitor literally may make the difference between life as you know it in the UK and you being deported to wherever the Home Office considers ‘home’ to be. Taking on the Home Office is easier said than done and judges are becoming increasingly likely to dismiss claims as being totally without merit. The team at UK Immigration Solicitors are well experienced in producing favourable and formidable arguments on behalf of our clients to overturn Home Office decisions.

If you are unsure of your position or would like to ensure that your application is handled by a knowledgeable specialist, get in touch with one of our friendly team members now on 0203 384 4389 to find out exactly how we can assist you to get it right first time round, saving you time, money and the heartache of being refused.

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The Judicial Review Process

Pre-action protocol

Normally a person who wishes to challenge a decision of the Home Office should write first to the department asking for the decision to be reviewed. This is called the pre-action protocol (PAP)

PAP letters and the responses to them should be carefully considered and drafted by a knowledgeable expert. This is a good opportunity to prevent judicial review proceedings being brought at all, either by re-making the decision in the applicant’s favour (where appropriate) or by setting out clearly the reasons for maintaining the existing decision.

Paper permission stage

If a person wants a judicial review of a decision then an application must first be made before the Upper Tribunal or High Court for permission. This should be done as soon as possible, but normally no longer than 3 months from the date of the decision, although the courts can decide to accept applications after that time limit. The person who brings a claim for judicial review is known as the claimant (applicant in the Upper Tribunal) and the person against whom the judicial review is brought is the defendant (the respondent in the Upper Tribunal), normally the Secretary of State for the Home Department (‘SSHD’) but it can be an Immigration Officer or Entry Clearance Officer when their decision is being challenged.

References in the remainder of this document are to claimants and defendants but apply equally to applicants and respondents. The claimant sets out the grounds of their claim, and includes any evidence they wish to rely on and asks for permission to be granted. Once received by the Upper Tribunal or High Court the application is ‘sealed’ by the court. This means the court stamps the application to show it has been received. The papers must then be served on GLD who will in turn notify the Home Office in cases progressing through High Court or directly on the Home Office in Upper Tribunal cases. The Upper Tribunal Rules do not formally require service of the sealed claim form although letters issued by the Upper Tribunal do inform applicants that they must do this.

Once the grounds have been served on GLD or the Home Office, there are 21 days to file a paper response to the claim, this is known as an Acknowledgement of Service (AoS). The AoS allows the Home Office to confirm whether it accepts the claim detailed in the judicial review or whether we wish to contest the claim. If we are contesting the claim the AoS, will include our summary grounds of defence (SG) and any evidence the Home Office wishes to rely on as to why the claim should not be granted permission to proceed. Once the court receives these documents a single judge will look at the papers and decide whether or not to grant permission. The test for granting permission is whether the judge thinks the claim is arguable. This is a low threshold.

However, a significant majority of claims which are not settled pre-permission are refused permission to proceed. If the judge does not think the claim is arguable, the judicial review will be refused permission to proceed. Both parties are then notified of this decision by means of a court order. If permission is refused, the judge may also certify the claim as being ’totally without merit’. This is added when the judge considers the claim is completely hopeless. A ‘totally without merit’ finding stops the claimant from renewing their Page 7 judicial review to an oral permission hearing, but they may appeal this decision to the Court of Appeal.

If the judge does consider the claim to be arguable, he or she will grant permission. In this circumstance, the case will proceed to a full substantive hearing. In either case, both parties are notified of the judge’s decision by means of a court order.

Oral permission stage

In some cases, the judge will not be able to reach a decision on whether permission should be granted on the basis of the paper documents before him. In these circumstances, an oral permission hearing (OPH) will be ordered.

Also, if permission is refused on the papers a claimant has 7 days plus 2 working days for postage (High Court) and 9 days (Upper Tribunal) in which they can ‘renew’ the application to an OPH. This time period can be abridged to a shorter period if the application is deemed urgent. If so, this will be stated on the Order refusing permission on the papers.

At an OPH the claimant (normally via their legal representatives) before a single judge will explain why they should be granted permission and the Home Office will be given an opportunity to explain why permission should not be granted. The Home Office will instruct a barrister (counsel) to argue why permission should be refused. The Upper Tribunal or High Court will then decide whether permission should be granted. A claim that is certified as being ‘totally without merit’ cannot renew to an OPH.

Sometimes an OPH is heard at the same time as the substantive hearing and this is called a rolled up hearing. This is more likely to happen where one party has made an application for the case to be expedited (ie heard sooner).

A rolled up hearing has the advantage of getting the matter dealt with quickly and in practice is cheaper than the two stage process. However, it does not allow for much time to prepare the substantive defense. At a rolled up hearing the judge will decide whether to grant permission as well as deciding the outcome of the judicial review if permission is granted.

Substantive position

Once a case is granted permission to proceed it will go on to a substantive hearing, unless settled or withdrawn, although occasionally there may be a prehearing known as a case management conference, or an interim relief hearing to take a view on an urgent element of the judicial review.

Once permission is granted the defendant must submit detailed grounds of defence within a Page 8 specified time frame (35 days from the date of permission grant). Nearer the hearing date counsel for both sides will submit written arguments as to why the claim should either be allowed (on behalf of the claimant) or dismissed (on behalf of the Home Office). These are called skeleton arguments.

The case will then have a substantive court hearing at which oral arguments are made by both the claimant and defendant. The court will then deliver a final judgment, which will either allow the claim and provide a form of relief in a court order, or dismiss the claim upholding the Home Office’s position.

Onward appealing (section 7- Post Hearing/Onward appeals)

It is possible to appeal a judicial review decision with permission. This includes a refusal of permission, a finding that a case is ‘totally without merit’ or the final judgment.

Settling cases

A judicial review claim can be settled at any point before a substantive hearing, if the Home Office and the claimant are able to come to an agreement on resolving the matter under dispute. Discussions between the parties about settlement may be conducted on a ‘without prejudice basis’ which means that the court will not see the relevant correspondence. Agreements to settle are then set out in consent order, which is provided to the court (although in some circumstances elements of the agreement are kept private between the parties – this applies particularly to awards of damages).

The court will normally approve (seal) a consent order signed by both sides at which point it becomes a binding court order. The court could potentially disagree that the judicial review should be settled as proposed but this is extremely rare. A claimant can also withdraw their judicial review at any point should they wish to do so.

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