Home Office Unreasonable Conduct Incites Award of Costs Claims

The award of costs, though not a relatively new scheme is one that has recently had its scope expanded thanks to a court decision made at the end of last year. This time with an expert panel of senior judges stepping in to give their determination on whether Home Office officers can be held to account for unreasonable behaviour by way of an order of costs.

In the last few years, it has become unclear whether an order of costs can be made against Home Office officers who are not considered regulated legal representatives per se.

However, owing to Awuah (No2) an unpublished follow-up to its predecessor, Awuah and Ors [2017] UKFTT 555 (IAC), the Tribunal has positively determined that awards of costs can be made against the Home Office. Though, this power, granted by Rule 9 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) Rules 2014 and Rule 10 of the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal Rules) Rules 2008, remains a power to be exercised with significant restraint. Perhaps a necessary constraint to prevent a colossal flood gate from being opened in claims against the Home Office. Nonetheless, it remains to be said, I am quite sure there are many.

Case Study

Sterling Law have recently acted as legal representatives to the Appellant – a Ghanaian citizen, refused a visa as a partner of a British citizen by the Home Office. The Home Office had claimed – as they too often do in assuming that in such cases sham marriages are predominantly made in order to obtain a British visa – that the appellant’s marriage was not a genuine and subsisting one. This, of course, turned out to be a false allegation and as the appellant’s legal representatives, we served several documentary evidences including DNA reports during the appeal in April which strongly contradicted such claims.

The Ghanaian appellant continues to be engaged in a genuine marriage and has borne a young child with his British wife, which overwhelmingly indicates an individual’s serious and sincere commitment to the development of his family life. A commitment that also entails the creation of the individual’s sustaining and long-lasting family-unit.  As such, all of this detail was assertively provided to the Home Office in evidence of the Appellant’s relationship with his wife and child. However, the Home Office not only and resoundingly failed to make a proper assessment of this case in our submission of the initial application, but there were also several incidents of negligence and unreasonable behaviour displayed throughout the duration of the appeal.

As the Tribunal judge noted in the Appellant’s decision, the Home Office officer neglected to file important documentation in compliance with the procedural rules of the Tribunal prior to the Appellant’s appeal hearing. Notably, incidents which do not fully comply with the rules that the Tribunal has in place for all parties to a legal proceeding, can often prove to be an obstacle to the progress of the case. As such, the nature of this documentation was Home Office interview records that the Home Office used almost exclusively as their evidence against the appellant to incriminate and delegitimise his credibility. Considering the weight of this evidence, which allegedly fortified the Home Office’s position against the appellant, they absurdly ‘forgot’ to submit these records on time for the appeal hearing and despite several letters sent by us prompting them to do so. These records were only properly acquiesced to both Sterling & Law and the Tribunal upon the Home Office representative being found to carry it on-file on the date of the hearing.

Unfortunately, this is not all of such irresponsible acts to have taken place during the appellant’s appeal.

On the day of the hearing, the Home Office had also foregone their obligation to cooperate with the Tribunal by failing to turn up without any explanation or prior notice for the absence. This is despite being appropriately notified of the hearing date well in advance by the Tribunal. Positively, the appeal continued to proceed despite this setback. Therefore, it proves how the Home Office continues to show much disregard and indifference for a large number of the immigration cases it oversees. Even more so in this case where the Home office has clearly shown irresponsibility, unreasonable and even unprofessional conduct that does nothing but further damage the image of the Home Office and its officers.

Appeal Success

Sterling Law proudly states that the Tribunal has granted this appeal on the proper consideration of all the evidence we have provided as the Ghanaian appellant’s legal representatives. The appeal has subsisted against the Home Office upon the grounds of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), preventing the unnecessary interference to the extant family life and private life between the Ghanaian appellant, his British wife and their child. An interference which is only really justified and serves as the exception and not norm in the event it contravenes with the law, is for the legitimate public end necessary in a democratic society, or is an interference which is ardently necessary to protect the economic well-being of the country.

Finally, this case has shown clear faults in the way the Home Office operates. It is clearly unlawful for the Home Office not to have full regard for the appellant’s circumstances before deciding whether to exercise their discretion in favour or against granting the applicant’s entry into the country. It also exudes of unreasonable conduct when the Home Office either fail to consider all the documentary evidence submitted to them or fail to appropriately present evidence as per the rules and regulations of the Tribunal, or both. Such as in this case.

As such, to continue to demerit such acts of negligence by the Home Office, Sterling Law will be pursing more relentlessly, claims for the award of Costs where cases are, prima facie, handled with unreasonable conduct.

As a law firm specialising in immigration and human rights, we continuously strive to protect the best interests of our clients.