Reporting Committee tries to save Home Office reputation

As we reported last month, the case case of Qadir & SM vs the secretary of state for the home department  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.

At some point, the reporting committee decided not to report the case of Qadir & SM vs the secretary of state for the home department.

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?

The case also saw Dr Harrison, an expert in voice recognition, dismantle the claims about fraud – and their ability to test for fraud – made by the Home Office and ETS, the firm who ran the test. What he said was equally applicable to all the other cases where people had been wrongly accused of fraud. The evidence the Home Office relied on was identical in all cases, so knocking it down for one should knock it down for all.

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.The committee should be picking the cases which have repercussions for reporting. But instead it reports many seemingly very trivial cases then leaves out a case which has profound implications for tens of thousands of people. Without the case being reported it will not appear on the free legal databases, which seriously limits access to justice for those affected. The reporting committee has previously selected cases that favour the Home Office in a factual dispute and the decision exposes the committee to accusations of bias.

The lawyers who fought the case have angrily fired off a letter to the chair of the reporting committee threatening a judicial review of the decision. It is an extraordinary letter. They accuse the committee of “an abuse of power”.

The clear suspicion is that the committee is doing this to protect the home secretary. The letter from lawyers asks the committee “whether or not the Home Office has asked you not to report the president’s judgement” or whether the judgement was “discussed with the Home Office or any third party”.

We can’t ask the reporting committee, because we can’t get hold of them. The Home Office won’t comment either. It is impossible to do a full analysis of all the reported and unreported decisions to try to find systemic bias. Those cases which go against the Home Office disappear, no matter how significant. Those which go for them are set in stone, no matter how insignificant.

For thousands of people wrongly accused of fraud by the Home Office, this will be a staggering moment, in which they may lose all faith in the British justice system. Some of them are fighting their cases from outside the UK, having had to humiliatingly leave the country with the shadow of fraud accusations hanging over them. Others are fighting in the UK, with the income of just one spouse because the other is not allowed to work while the case is resolved.

They will have read the Qadir case. They know the accusations of fraud against them have been made by Home Officials whose testimony was not considered credible by the upper tribunal. They know a voice recognition expert has rubbished the evidence put out by ETS. They know the case against them has been comprehensively dismantled. But they cannot cite this in their own case. It’s as if it never happened.

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