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Egyptian humanist would have been wrongly deported if justice reforms were in place, Parliament told

Parliament has heard how an Egyptian humanist would have been wrongly deported if proposed reforms to judicial review were already in place. Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter MP raised the case of the asylum seeker, who was supported by Humanists UK, during debate on the  Judicial Review and Courts Bill. He did so to challenge the Government’s plan to abolish the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the refusal of a tribunal to hear a case. Such appeals, known as Cart, are often the last line of defence for asylum seekers who wish to challenge a legal mistake made by a tribunal judge. The Government has put forward plans in the Bill to abolish this type of appeal completely.

Mr Slaughter was speaking during the committee stage debate on the Bill. He is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group and was briefed by Humanists UK ahead of the debate. In it he stated,

‘Almost all the cases in the immigration and asylum chamber of the first-tier tribunal relate to asylum and human rights appeals, which engage the most fundamental rights, including, in some cases, the difference between life and death.

‘In one case, the right to a Cart appeal saved a humanist asylum seeker who would have been wrongfully deported to Egypt to face state-sponsored persecution and vigilante violence. He relied on Cart to demonstrate that the tribunal judge erred in his case. It is also worth noting that the Home Office conceded his claim before it went to a full hearing at the Court of Appeal, which meant that his case will not show up on official statistics regarding Cart.’

Humanists UK has campaigned against reform to Cart, arguing that the Government has not made the case for why such reforms are necessary. The cost of Cart reviews to the public purse is minimal, less than £402,000 per year. On the other hand, the cost of not being able to resolve a legal error made by a tribunal judge which leads to the wrongful deportation of an individual is extremely grave, including a risk of violence and to life.

In a previous committee hearing, Mr Slaughter also raised concerns about plans to introduce suspended or prospective-only quashing orders. Under the proposed reforms, public bodies that are found to have breached the law may not have to correct their unlawful actions swiftly. Judges will be capable of leaving the unlawful conduct, which led to the legal case occurring in the first place, remaining in effect. He illustrated these concerns using a case supported by Humanists UK in 2015 to challenge the unlawful exclusion of non-religious beliefs from Religious Education. Three humanist families successfully challenged this. But had these reforms been in place then, it could have meant that the curriculum would not have had to change for the particular pupils affected.

The Government did not accept amendments to the Bill regarding either Cart reviews or quashing orders. It argued that the abolition of Cart is needed to tackle inefficiencies in the judicial system and that creating additional remedies through quashing orders gives judges more options rather than diluting the power of judicial review. Both clauses were voted to remain as part of the Bill.

Humanists UK leads a coalition of 230+ charities, trades unions, and human rights organisations in calling for the protections of the Human Rights Act and judicial review to be maintained. It also submitted their joint statement on the matter to the Ministry of Justice.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented,

‘We are strongly opposed to plans to abolish Cart appeals. It is a vital mechanism to prevent wrongful deportation of some of our society’s most vulnerable members. Contrary to claims made by the Government that it gives asylum seekers another “bite at the cherry”, Cart appeals are only concerned with correcting legal errors made by judges. It would be right to question how “just” a justice system is if it allows legal errors to go unaddressed.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Bill Committee’s discussion on Cart reviews.

Read the Bill Committee’s discussion on quashing orders.

Read more about our work on judicial review.

Read more about our coalition.

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