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Delay in Immigration Tribunal Decision-Making

Delay is a common concept in the context of decision making by UK Visas & Immigration.  In SS (Sri Lanka) [2018] EWCA Civ 139, the Court of Appeal recently considered delay in the promulgation of judgments/determinations in the Immigration Tribunal.

Lord Justice Leggatt summarised the question raised in the appeal as follows:

“The question raised on this appeal is whether, in cases heard by the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) (“FTT”) where the credibility of the appellant is in issue, there is a rule that a delay of more than three months between the hearing of oral evidence and the date of the FTT’s decision renders the decision unsafe. The short answer to the question is that there is no such rule. In tribunal cases, as in court proceedings, excessive delay in making or promulgating a decision is not itself a reason for setting the decision aside. The correct approach is to ask whether the delay has caused the decision to be unsafe so that it would be unjust to let it stand. The only significance of the fact that delay between the hearing and the decision in an asylum case has exceeded three months is that, where the decision is challenged on an appeal, the Upper Tribunal should examine the FTT judge’s factual findings with particular care to ensure that the delay has not caused injustice to the appellant”, per Legatt LJ, paragraph 1.

Factual Background

The appellant in this case was a Sri Lankan national who entered the UK illegally.  His claim was based on his the fact he had been forced to join the militant Tamil group known as the LTTE. The appellant escaped.  He and his family were then captured by the Sri Lankan army and taken to a displacement camp. They were released in May 2011. In May 2013, the appellant was arrested and detained for a month.  He was released when his brother paid a bribe. He had confessed to being a member of the LTTE. After his release the CID came looking for him, but he had been taken to Colombo and subsequently left the UK using a false passport.

On 25 April 2014 the appellant’s claim for asylum was rejected by the Secretary of State, his credibility being the central issue.

The Appeal To The First-tier Immigration Tribunal

The appellant appealed and his appeal came before FTT Judge Hamilton on  23 December 2014. The appellant was represented at the hearing and gave oral evidence. The decision and statement of reasons of the FTT is dated 23 April 2015, which was taken to be the date on which its preparation was completed. There was then a further delay before the decision was promulgated on 5 June 2015.  The FTT judge said this was “due to an administrative error on my part, whereby I believed I had sent it off for promulgation when in fact I had not.”  The Judge’s reasons ran to 97 paragraphs… READ FULL ARTICLE