Before Covid-19, equality of arms was often lacking between unrepresented appellants and the Home Office. However, following the sweeping changes to procedure in the First-tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, there is a real risk that those without representation are denied access to justice and a fair hearing.
Immigration barristers Bernadette Smith and Geeta Koska have developed a practical guide to assist organisations and representatives who have contact with unrepresented appellants, as well as unrepresented appellants themselves. The guide was developed with input from Michael Tarnoky at Jesuit Refugee Service UK and includes an overview of the key changes to the tribunal procedure, submissions for an application to adjourn and a “questions and answers” handout for unrepresented appellants about adjournments, the CMH, decisions taken on paper and remote hearings.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, cuts to legal aid and pressures on asylum and immigration legal aid providers led to a rise in unrepresented appellants who, without assistance, already faced unique challenges in navigating the legal system. We hope that the guide will provide practical assistance to counteract the negative effects of the new procedural rules which are likely to further disadvantage unrepresented appellants at this time.
If any organisation or unrepresented appellant would like a copy of the guide please email Tim Markham.
1MCB Chambers has also produced a comprehensive guide to the procedural changes in the First-tier and Upper Tribunals for representatives that can be accessed here.