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Anonymity and private hearings

Chapter number:
Pre-Hearing Steps
Last updated:
14 February 2022

Taking instructions

32.1 The Tribunal has the power to make anonymity orders and orders prohibiting disclosure or publication of documents or information and to conduct hearings in private (see rules 13 and 27). Explore with your client in advance of the hearing whether any such application is appropriate. It is essential that any application be made in good time.

32.2 A decision to conduct the hearing in private has important consequences in terms of the Home Office's confidentiality policy. The caseworker guidance entitled 'Disclosure and confidentiality of information in asylum claims' states:


In cases where claims for asylum have been refused and the Appellate Authority have upheld that decision, this information can usually be considered to be in the public domain and therefore to that extent is no longer covered by our obligations of confidentiality. However, you must consider whether the disclosure of that information is necessary in the light of the enquiry received. If a caseworker has any doubts about whether or not information should be given they should seek advice from a senior caseworker.

If an appeal is heard 'in camera', the evidence is heard in a closed court which is not open to the public. This means that the matter has not passed into the public domain and details of those claims must not be disclosed or mentioned in relation to other cases, as the information will still be protected by our obligations of confidentiality - unless there are specific facts that justify the disclosure under overriding public interest or lawful justification. When an appeal has been heard 'in camera' this will normally be noted on the determination. Any request for this information should be considered under the FOIA but in such cases it may be appropriate to rely on exemptions of the FOIA. There will also be cases where the court or tribunal orders anonymity and this must be abided by. Breaching an anonymity order is a contempt of court. Therefore, if information covered by an anonymity order needs to be disclosed an application would have to be made to the Court for the order to be lifted. (p 14)

32.3 You will have to warn your client of the risk that the Home Office may disclose information that she had assumed was confidential. You may also have to explain the policy to the judge. He may have no idea that the Home Office has claimed to be able to make public use not just of the determination, but also of whatever information and material the Home Office was given in support of the claim, regardless of whether it is mentioned in the determination.

32.3A Clearly, however, irrespective of any published statement of its duties, the Home Office has certain confidentiality obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and Article 8 ECHR. Successful damages claims have been brought in circumstances where, for example, the Home Office has shared documents corroborating an asylum-seeker's claims of persecution with the state in question or where the Home Office mistakenly published on its website the personal data of six asylum seekers in breach of the Data Protection Act (TLT and ors v SSHD and the Home Office [2016] EWHC 2217 (QB)). The Tribunal has held that there is a general duty of confidentiality during the process of examining a protection claim, including during the appellate procedure: VT (Article 22 Procedures Directive - confidentiality) Sri Lanka [2017] UKUT 00368 (IAC). The headnote at (ii) says:

(ii) There is a general duty of confidentiality during the process of examining a protection claim, including appellate and judicial review proceedings. If it is considered necessary to make an inquiry in the country of origin the country of asylum must obtain the applicant's written consent. Disclosure of confidential information without consent is only justified in limited and exceptional circumstances, such as combating terrorism.

32.3B The Tribunal clarified the extent of the obligation in PA (protection claim: respondent's enquiries; bias) Bangladesh [2018] UKUT 0337 (IAC) in which it was said:

(1) There is no general legal requirement on the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of an applicant for international protection before making an inquiry about the applicant in the applicant's country of origin. The decision in VT (Article 22 Procedures Directive – confidentiality) Sri Lanka [2017] UKUT 00368 (IAC) is not to be read as holding to the contrary.

(2) The United Kingdom's actual legal obligations in this area are contained in Article 22 of the Procedures Directive (2005/85/EC), as given effect in paragraph 339IA of the Immigration Rules. So far as obtaining information is concerned, these provisions prohibit making such an inquiry in a manner that would result in alleged actors of persecution being directly informed of the fact that that an application for international protection has been made, which would jeopardise the applicant's (or his family's) physical integrity, liberty or security.

(3) If information is obtained in a way that has such an effect, the fact that the applicant may have given consent will not affect the fact that there is a breach of Article 22.

32.3C In respect of data protection laws, in CJ (international video-link hearing: data protection) Jamaica [2019] UKUT 00126 (IAC) (and upheld by the Court of Appeal in Johnson v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWCA Civ 1032) it was held that there was no breach in respect of videolink arrangements between the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica and the Tribunal's hearing centre in the United Kingdom:

(1) The arrangements made to enable the appellant to give evidence in his human rights appeal by video link between the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica and the Tribunal's hearing centre in the United Kingdom did not involve the transfer of data to a third country, for the purposes of the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679).

(2) Even if that were not the case, the transfer was lawful under the derogation in Article 49(1)(e) of the Regulation (transfer necessary for establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims).

Anonymity orders

32.4 By rule 13(1), the Tribunal may make an order prohibiting the disclosure or publication of 'any matter likely to lead members of the public to identify any person whom the Tribunal considers should not be identified'. Presidential Guidance Note (No. 2 of 2011) on 'Anonymity Directions in the FtT(IAC)' states that:

1. Applications for anonymity are made in the notice of appeal. There is a web link to the appropriate form for the appellant to complete. The appeal file will be marked accordingly. Either party may apply for anonymity at a later stage. Once an application is made the appeal will be anonymised and will remain so until further directions of the Tribunal.

2. All asylum appeals will be anonymised at case creation.

3. Once anonymity is granted the Tribunal will remove the appellant's name from all published documents that are in the public domain. The names will remain in full on the judicial cause list…

4. The power to direct anonymity is derived from article 8 ECHR and such directions should be made where public knowledge of the person or the case might impact on that person's protected rights. An interim anonymity direction is more likely to be appropriate during initial stages of an appeal to enable the parties to prepare their cases without interference or hindrance. At the CMR or at the substantive hearing the Immigration Judge should review the application for anonymity and direct whether the appellant should be granted anonymity. There may well be appeals where no application is made by either party but the court will self direct that anonymity should be granted.

5. Anonymity directions will often, if not always, be made where the appeal involves:-

i) a child or vulnerable person.

ii) evidence that the appeal concerns personal information about the lives of those under 18 and their welfare may be injured if such details are revealed and their names are known

iii) there is highly personal evidence in the appeal that should remain confidential

iv) there is a claim that the appellant would be at risk of harm and that by publishing their names and details it may cause them harm or put others at real risk of harm

v) publication of the determination may be used subsequently to support a sur place claim.

32.5 The Upper Tribunal Guidance Note 2013 No 1: Anonymity Orders explains that:

Asylum and other protection claims

13. It is the present practice of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber that an anonymity order is made in all appeals raising asylum or other international protection claims. An appellant will be identified by initial and country in such cases unless and until a judge has decided that anonymity is not necessary. UTIAC will follow the same general practice, with the result that anonymity will remain, unless a UT judge decides it is unnecessary.

14. Where details of witnesses or relatives abroad form part of a protection case, particular consideration should also be given as to whether publication of those details would be likely to cause serious harm.

It is rare for First-tier Tribunal determinations to enter the public domain, but not unheard of. However, the appeal may reach the Upper Tribunal. As explained in Upper Tribunal Guidance Note (para 4), all unreported Upper Tribunal determinations are now published on the internet and can be searched online by name. The Upper Tribunal may consider that anonymity is unnecessary even in an asylum case because it has not been requested, in which case the determination may be published on its website with the name of the appellant. In Cokaj (anonymity orders: jurisdiction and ambit) [2021] UKUT 00202 (IAC), the Upper Tribunal held that it – as a higher court or Tribunal – may impose or discharge an anonymity order that has effect in respect of the entirety of the proceedings under s82 of the 2002 Act, that is, including the first instance First-tier determination.

32.5A In Smith (appealable decisions; PTA requirements; anonymity) [2019] UKUT 00216 (IAC) the Tribunal gave guidance on anonymity orders in the IAC, stating that there was no special rule for immigration appeals. In that case, concerning an Article 8 deportation appeal, the First-tier judge had stated that it was "in the interests of justice" to make an anonymity direction but had provided no explanation of his reasoning. The Upper Tribunal declined to grant anonymity on appeal and gave the following guidance (at [68]):

… The starting point is that open justice is a fundamental principle of our legal system. Any derogation from that principle should be allowed only to the extent that is necessary in order to secure the proper administration of justice. As a result, just as is the case in other jurisdictions, the parties in immigration proceedings should be named, unless doing so would cause harm, or create the risk of harm, of such a nature as to require derogation from the basic principle. In most cases involving international protection, anonymity of an individual will be required, lest the proceedings themselves should aggravate or give rise to such a risk. That will normally be the case throughout the course of the proceedings, including any appeals.

In application to the appellant's claim for anonymity, the Tribunal said (at [70]):

The claimant would, no doubt, prefer it if our decision did not refer to him by name. He is not, however, asserting a risk of harm to himself, as in the case of a person seeking international protection. Irrespective of whether the Article 8 rights of the claimant or any other person are in due course found to be of such a kind as to defeat the Secretary of State's attempt to remove the claimant, the public has a right to know about the criminal behaviour of the claimant, which led to the decision that he should be deported. There is also a strong public interest in recording the fact that the claimant has repeatedly behaved in flagrant contravention of what is, on its face, a valid deportation order.

32.6 The practice in the Court of Appeal is set out in a Practice Note on 31 July 2006:

The Court of Appeal has decided to follow the universal practice observed by other European jurisdictions and to anonymise its judgments in cases involving asylum-seekers. It is satisfied that the publication of the names of appellants may create avoidable risks for them in the countries from which they have come....All applications and appeals raising asylum and immigration issues ... will therefore be anonymised in the court's internal records by assigning two initials and the country of origin (AB (Turkey), for instance) unless a judge gives a specific direction to contrary effect... If judgment is given in an asylum appeal ... there will be a presumption that the asylum-seeker's anonymity will be preserved unless the court gives a direction to contrary effect. On the other hand, there will be a presumption that judgments in immigration appeals will identify the name of the person seeking relief under the immigration laws unless the court gives a direction requiring anonymity.

The Administrative Court has no equivalent practice direction, although as indicated in the Practice Note, the Court of Appeal will also anonymise appeals from the Administrative Court which have an asylum element.

32.7 The Supreme Court is particularly concerned to ensure that anonymity is justified on a case by case basis which means that cases that had been anonymised by the Court of Appeal may not be anonymised in the Supreme Court. But even the Supreme Court will give considerable weight to the submission that an asylum seeker requires anonymity. In R (Kambadzi) v SSHD [2011] UKSC 23 (an unlawful detention challenge involving an asylum seeker), the Supreme Court lifted the anonymity which had been given to the Zimbabwean claimant in the Administrative Court and Court of Appeal. Lord Hope said that:

6. There is no doubt that the court has power to make an anonymity order to restrain publication of a person named in its proceedings. In an extreme case, where he or his family are in peril of their lives or safety, this may help to secure his rights under articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms : In re Guardian News and Media Ltd [2010] 2 AC 697 , para 26. Those are the rights that are most likely to be relevant if he is seeking asylum. It may also be made to secure that other persons, such as the press, show respect for his private and family life under article 8 of the Convention. But in such cases the person's article 8 rights must be balanced against the article 10 rights of the press and the general public interest in his being identified: In re Guardian News and Media Ltd , para 76. As the decision in that case shows, however, much will depend on the circumstances of each case. It is no longer the case that all asylum seekers as a class are entitled to anonymity in this court. The making of such an order has to be justified.

7. I am not persuaded that an order for the appellant's anonymity is justified in this case. It must be recognised, of course, that lifting the order for his anonymity is not entirely without risk. It is rarely possible to predict with complete confidence what risks a failed asylum seeker will face when he is returned to his home country. But the position that the asylum seeker himself adopts will always be an important factor. He is likely to be in the best position to assess the risks and to say whether or not he needs anonymity for his protection...

32.7B It is therefore important to ensure that you request anonymity in the notice of appeal in cases where your client considers that it will reduce risk to her or her family, or where sensitive information about your client or any family members (especially if they are children) is likely to be disclosed in the course of the appeal. There is a separate form to request anonymity which should be provided with the appeal papers or can be downloaded from the Tribunal's website and submitted with your notice of appeal. If you did not complete the notice of appeal and anonymity was not requested at that stage, you should ensure at the CMRH and hearing stage that the appropriate anonymity direction is made. If anonymity is granted by the FTT and there is onward appeal, the order does not automatically apply to subsequent proceedings and it will be necessary for each future tribunal to make a decision on the question.

32.7C The Tribunal may make an anonymity order of its own motion (without any application having been made or notice given). Given that this effectively precludes appellants from discussing their cases with the media (which may, in some circumstances, be desirable), your client may wish to challenge the order. Whilst there is no formal mechanism for the challenge to anonymity orders, it arguably may be done in several ways, including seeking a further direction to lift the order, seeking permission to appeal or, if in the First-tier, applying under rule 32 of the Procedure Rules to set aside the part of the determination imposing anonymity.

32.8 The Presidential Guidance Note does not directly address the position of witnesses. The power under rule 13(1) to protect the identity of 'any person whom the Tribunal considers should not be identified' enables the Tribunal to direct that nothing be said in court which could identify a person to the public, and it is required by rule 13(10) to 'conduct proceedings and record its decisions and reasons appropriately so as not to undermine the effect of an order made under paragraph (1)...' This may be sufficient to assuage the concerns of a witness about giving evidence in public.

32.9 The power under rule 13(1) to protect the identity of any person enables the Tribunal to impose reporting restrictions under s.11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (as the Presidential Guidance Note acknowledges). This provides that:

In any case where a court (having power to do so) allows a name or other matter to be withheld from the public in proceedings before the court, the court may give such directions prohibiting the publication of that name or matter in connection with the proceedings as appear to be necessary for the purpose for which it was so withheld.

Section 19 of the same Act states that: 'court' includes any tribunal or body exercising the judicial power of the State...

32.10 The Guidance Note states that:

In most appeals a direction in the determination, which should be clearly identified, could be made:-

"The appellant be granted anonymity throughout these proceedings, unless and until a tribunal or court directs otherwise, and be referred to as [initials of appellant]. No report of these proceedings shall directly or indirectly identify him/her or any member of their family. This direction applies both to the appellant and to the respondent. Failure to comply with this direction could lead to a contempt of court."

There may be other instances where the entire determination should be anonymised and the immigration judge should ensure that the determination in itself, even if publicised, would not identify the appellant. Examples of this could be where the appellant has been working for the security services. In other appeals only some part of the determination may need to be anonymised. This may arise where it is in the public interest for the appellant to be named, for example in a serious criminal deportation appeal, but their address should not be disclosed to prevent harm to him or his family.

32.11 The Tribunal has been prepared, for example in Zimbabwean Country Guidance litigation, to make more extensive orders prohibiting the identification of multiple witnesses by reason of risk to them or relatives in their own country. These have covered not only factual witnesses but also experts who were concerned about the effect of giving evidence publicly upon their ability to operate in the country (including where the Home Office did not consent to the order being made). However, there must be a proper basis for making such an order. In SSHD v MN and KY (Somalia) [2014] UKSC 30, the Supreme Court (referring to rule 14 of the Upper Tribunal Rules, which is equivalent to rule 13) observed that the rule: helpful as emphasising that, in the tribunals as in the courts, openness is the norm, and that there needs to be special reason for departing from it, risk of serious personal harm being an obvious example.

32.11A Where an organisation is responsible for producing expert reports and produces sufficient evidence about the individuals involved in writing the reports to satisfy the Tribunal of the reliability of the report, the Court may permit the identity of those individuals to be withheld even from the opposing party, notwithstanding the resulting incompatibility with the Practice Directions, providing that there is "good reason for the anonymity and no basis...for thinking that disclosure of the names" would assist in challenging their evidence: RB (Somalia) v SSHD [2012] EWCA Civ 277. In the Supreme Court in MN (Somalia) [2014] UKSC 30, Lord Carnwath JSC said that:

...I agree that in respect of an individual expert witness its exercise requires special justification. Sprakab's policy of anonymity clearly would not absolve the tribunal of its duty to examine of itself the evidence said to justify a departure from the normal rule. However, in my view there were valid reasons for taking a less strict view in the present context. This was not anonymous evidence in the ordinary sense. The evidence was advanced, and the expertise claimed, on behalf of an organisation, based on the collaborative work of individuals with different skills within it. There was no doubt about the identity of the organisation, its working methods or the qualifications and experience of those involved in preparing its report. The names of the individuals were available to the tribunal, and could have been made known to the parties if it became necessary to do so, for example to pursue a particular line of cross-examination. Subject to appropriate safeguards, and to satisfying themselves that in the circumstances of the particular case no prejudice was caused, the Upper Tribunal were entitled to determine that there was no objection in principle to the course adopted.

32.12 There may, rarely, be cases in which exceptional steps will be justified to reassure a potential witness that his identity will be protected in order to persuade him to give evidence to the Tribunal. In W (Algeria) v SSHD [2012] UKSC 8 [2012] 2 AC 115, an appellant before SIAC argued that his removal to Algeria would expose him to a risk of a breach of Article 3 ECHR, and he sought to rely on the evidence of a witness who was in a position to give significant evidence about the reliability of assurances given by the Algerian government, but that witness was unwilling to give evidence save if he first received an absolute and irrevocable guarantee that his identity would never be divulged. The Supreme Court held that it was open to SIAC to make that prior direction before the Home Office was made aware of the identity of the witness. The Supreme Court emphasised that the circumstances in which it might be appropriate to grant such a request would be extremely rare, because it was inimical to the principles of open justice and procedural fairness. It was only in cases engaging Article 3 (and not other Articles of the Convention) that the balance could ever be struck in favour of making such an order. In R (B) v Westminster Magistrates' Court [2014] UKSC 59 [2014] 3 WLR 1336, the Supreme Court proceeded on the basis that as well as SIAC, such an order could be within the powers of the FTT hearing an asylum appeal (the rules considered were the 2005 Rules).

32.13 Be aware of the risk that the Home Office may not comply with an anonymity order, especially if it is making its own enquiries in the country of origin. In BK (Failed asylum seekers) DRC CG [2007] UKAIT 00098, the Tribunal said that:

Whilst we have found no intentional breach by the respondent of the Tribunal's order, we would hope that in future the respondent would ensure that Embassy officials asked to assist with inquiries relating to country guidance issues are made fully aware of any anonymity and confidentiality implications and that, in a case where they consider that response to requests for information may entail some degree of disclosure, the respondent approaches the Tribunal for clarification beforehand. (para 16)

Directions prohibiting the disclosure of documents or information

32.13A Whereas rule 13(1) is aimed at anonymity orders, the remainder of rule 13 empowers the Tribunal to issue directions prohibiting the disclosure of a document or information. It is clear that this power is intended to extend to prohibiting disclosure to a party including her representative, or permitting disclosure to the representative but not the party, ie his client. Rule 13(2-9) states that:

(2) The Tribunal may give a direction prohibiting the disclosure of a document or information to a person if—

(a) the Tribunal is satisfied that such disclosure would be likely to cause that person or some other person serious harm; and

(b) the Tribunal is satisfied, having regard to the interests of justice, that it is proportionate to give such a direction.

(3) If a party ("the first party") considers that the Tribunal should give a direction under paragraph (2) prohibiting the disclosure of a document or information to another party ("the second party"), the first party must

(a) exclude the relevant document or information from any documents to be provided to the second party; (b) provide to the Tribunal the excluded document or information, and the reason for its exclusion, so that the Tribunal may decide whether the document or information should be disclosed to the second party or should be the subject of a direction under paragraph (2).

(4) The Tribunal must conduct proceedings as appropriate in order to give effect to a direction given under paragraph (2).

(5) If the Tribunal gives a direction under paragraph (2) which prevents disclosure to a party who has appointed a representative, the Tribunal may give a direction that the documents or information be disclosed to that representative if the Tribunal is satisfied that—

(a) disclosure to the representative would be in the interests of the party; and

(b) the representative will act in accordance with paragraph (6).

(6) Documents or information disclosed to a representative in accordance with a direction under paragraph (5) must not be disclosed either directly or indirectly to any other person without the Tribunal's consent.

(7) The Tribunal may, on the application of a party or on its own initiative, give a direction that certain documents or information must or may be disclosed to the Tribunal on the basis that the Tribunal will not disclose such documents or information to other persons, or specified other persons.

(8) A party making an application for a direction under paragraph (7) may withhold the relevant documents or information from other parties until the Tribunal has granted or refused the application.

(9) In a case involving matters relating to national security, the Tribunal must ensure that information is not disclosed contrary to the interests of national security.

32.13B Note that a direction under rule 13(2) can only be made on the basis of a risk of serious harm either to the person from whom disclosure is withheld or some other person. In R (ILPA) v Tribunal Procedure Committee [2016] EWHC 218 (Admin), Blake J accepted as correct the Lord Chancellor's submission that rule 13(7) does not permit the Tribunal to receive documents which are not disclosed to all other parties, but only to direct that they may not be disclosed to any non-parties. The Home Office therefore cannot apply to prevent disclosure on the basis of some public interest which does not involve a risk of serious harm to a person. In upholding the lawfulness of the Rule, Blake J held that the 'serious harm' test in rule 13(2):

…must be limited to significant physical and mental suffering; harm to commercial or privacy interests, distress or anxiety is not enough. This would need to be established by credible information rather than mere assertion. 'Likely' involves establishing something higher than a mere risk or possibility of harm although is less than the application of the ordinary civil standard (see Cream Holdings v Bannerjee [2004] UKHL 4; [2005] 1 AC 253 per Lord Nicholls at [12] to [23] and particularly at [21] citing In re H (Minors)(Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) [1996] AC 563, 585). It will be an unusual case where the evidence meets this standard, and if it does, the judge must still consider the second requirement whether the making of the direction is consistent with the interests of justice and proportionate.

The power in rule 13(5) to disclose to a representative but not to the party he is representing applies only if the Tribunal is satisfied that the representative will comply with the order. There may be circumstances in which the Home Office contends that a document or information should be withheld from an appellant because revealing the source may endanger that source in the country of origin, but considers that disclosure to the representative alone does not create that risk. The disclosure of documents to a representative which he is not then permitted to disclose to his client raises serious ethical issues and you should be very cautious about agreeing to such disclosure, and should only do so with the express and informed consent of your client. As explained by Blake J, the main benefit for your client in doing so is that you will then be able to make informed submissions as to why the document should in fact be disclosed to your client (In R (ILPA) v Tribunal Procedure Committee [2016] EWHC 218 (Admin) at [78]). However if those submissions are not successful, you will be left in the invidious position of attempting to rebut potentially damaging information without being able to ask your client about it. While rule 13(9) places the Tribunal under a duty to ensure that information is not disclosed contrary to national security in a case involving national security, asylum and human rights appeals which would otherwise be heard in the FTT(IAC) which involve national security matters would ordinarily be certified by the Home Office so as to require the appeal be heard by SIAC (which has its own procedure rules). In R (ILPA) v Tribunal Procedure Committee [2016] EWHC 218 (Admin), Blake J accepted that this rule does not displace the functions of SIAC, it is simply intended to ensure that the Tribunal can avoid any risk to national security.32.13C By rule 13(10):

The Tribunal must conduct proceedings and record its decision and reasons appropriately so as not to undermine the effect of an order made under paragraph (1), a direction given under paragraph (2), (5) or (7) or the duty imposed by paragraph (9).

The Tribunal also has express power under rule 27(4)(c) to exclude a person from a hearing to give effect to a direction under rule 13(2) - see below.

32.13D While this rule confers power on the Tribunal to receive the document or information from the Home Office without it being disclosed to the appellant, it says nothing about the circumstances in which fairness would permit such information or evidence to be received and relied on against the appellant. Note that in CM (Zimbabwe) v SSHD [2013] EWCA Civ 1303 [2014] Imm AR 326, the Court of Appeal approved a decision by the Upper Tribunal to appoint a PII Advocate in an asylum appeal to assist with a closed PII procedure and held that the Tribunal would have also been entitled to appoint a Special Advocate.

32.13E In R (ILPA) v Tribunal Procedure Committee [2016] EWHC 218 (Admin), Blake J held that rule 13(2), in combination with rule 27(4), did give the Tribunal power to adopt a closed material procedure ('CMP') where the serious harm test was met. He rejected ILPA's challenge to the lawfulness of the Rule, emphasizing that the power to authorise a CMP was an exceptional one, which the Tribunal judiciary could and should be expected to exercise judicially, having regard to the requirements of fairness (which are particularly high in asylum and human rights appeals), and only in the rarest of cases. Even then, he considered it 'improbable that [directions for a CMP] would be made by a judge properly directing himself as to the requirements of fairness' (at [70]). Enquiries made by the Lord Chancellor of 81 Tribunal judges and the Home Office suggested that as at the time of the hearing, no such direction had been made [22]. Blake J considered 3 possible scenarios in which such a direction might be thought justified and rejected each. Most such risks could be addressed by appropriate anonymity and reporting conditions. The risk of harm to the mental health of an appellant could not justify a CMP not least since "The most distressing information for such appellants is the news that they are to be refused admission and/or expelled from the UK, but that is the reason why there is an appeal in the first place and cannot be kept from the appellant." [75]. In relation to the possibility of witness intimidation he observed:

82. The above does not remove the problem of the reluctant witness who feels obliged to come to the Tribunal to give false evidence and does not want the person who is the source of the threat to be made aware of this by way of police investigation, suitably redacted hearsay evidence or otherwise. In substance, the problem is no different in immigration appeals or criminal courts and in my view, for reasons well illustrated by Lord Bingham's observations in Roberts and elsewhere, a secret hearing where the appellant does not know the case s/he is facing and is unable to test it is not the answer. Such informants may have reasons of their own for making the statements they do and the exploration of their reliability can only ever be satisfactorily done if the opposing party participates in the process.

83. Even if, in the Parole Board context, the need for the tribunal determining the release on licence of a serious criminal mandates that all data relevant to risk is before them, an immigration appeal does not involve the same triangulation of interests. The judge's function is to decide whether the appellant has made out his case. Of course, any witness or person who does not want to be a witness, can be the subject of threats and reprisals and if they are from abroad such reprisals may be to family members overseas, but in my view this would not be sufficient basis for a judge to authorise a secret trial in clear breach of the most basic principles of a fair hearing. …

Accordingly he concluded that:

84. In short, I cannot consider that rule 13(2) gives rise to a systemic or inherent lack of fairness since I cannot envisage it will be used to make a closed substantive decision in the manner contended for by the claimant. … In any event, if I am wrong as a matter of general prediction, then it is, at least, likely to be such a rare and unusual case, where the competing considerations would have to be examined on their individual facts. …

85. I recognise that the very existence of the power is troubling and the repeal of rule 51 (7) equally so. It may well be that this is an issue that the Chamber President or the Senior President of Tribunals will want to consider issuing guidance on. It is not the function of this court to do so, in the course of adjudicating on this challenge. I would anticipate, however, that if the power were ever to be used, there would need to be a clear notification to the appellant that it had been and a full account of what was done and why would need to be recorded somewhere in the determination so it could be reviewed by the Upper Tribunal, this court or the Court of Appeal.

Private hearings

32.14 Rule 27 states (rule 27(2A) (not reproduced below) and rule 27A, added in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, are considered at para 32.26A):

27.—(1) Subject to the following paragraphs and to section 108 of the 2002 Act, all hearings must be held in public.

(2) The Tribunal may give a direction that a hearing, or part of it, is to be held in private.

(3) Where a hearing, or part of it, is to be held in private, the Tribunal may determine who is permitted to attend the hearing or part of it.

(4) The Tribunal may give a direction excluding from any hearing, or part of it—

(a) any person whose conduct the Tribunal considers is disrupting or is likely to disrupt the hearing;

(b) any person whose presence the Tribunal considers is likely to prevent another person from giving evidence or making submissions freely;

(c) any person who the Tribunal considers should be excluded in order to give effect to a direction under rule 13(2) (withholding a document or information likely to cause serious harm); or

(d) any person where the purpose of the hearing would be defeated by the attendance of that person.

(5) The Tribunal may give a direction excluding a witness from a hearing until that witness gives evidence.

32.15 The Guidance Note emphasises that an anonymity direction will not in itself result in a private hearing and that 'Exclusion of the public from a hearing should be comparatively rare as long as the identity of the appellant and/or their family is protected.'

32.16 In D (In the matter of D) 1 CCLR 190, Dyson J held that the same test applies both for conducting proceedings 'in camera' (i.e. excluding the public) and for imposing reporting restrictions although that "same test could be more easily satisfied where anonymity is sought than where what is applied for is that the proceedings be held in camera". That reflects the approach of the Tribunal in BK (Failed asylum seekers) DRC CG [2007] UKAIT 00098, in which it emphasised that:

Quite exceptionally, much of the hearing of the case took place in camera. Hearings before this Tribunal must normally be in public and it is of cardinal importance that they should remain so. (para 2)

32.17 The test applied by Dyson J was "whether the proposed derogation from open justice is necessary in order to prevent a real risk that the administration of justice will be rendered impractical" and he also quoted the comments of Lord Donaldson MR in H v Ministry of Defence [1991] 2 All ER 834:

In order that the citizens be not deterred from seeking access to justice through courts it is occasionally necessary to protect them from the consequences of public scrutiny of evidence, and in particular medical evidence, of a nature that such scrutiny would prove not only embarrassing but positively damaging to them.

32.18 In D 1 CCLR 190 itself, the application was for an anonymity order under s.11 preventing publication or disclosure of any information that might reveal D's identity. D had advanced HIV disease, had overstayed, and had sought judicial review of his local authority's refusal to assist him under the National Assistance Act. Medical evidence indicated that public knowledge of his situation would endanger him psychologically (i.e. he would be at risk in the UK rather than only following an expulsion). Dyson J held that:

In my judgment, for the purposes of the present case, D has to show that there is a real risk that, without the protection of anonymity, he will suffer real significant physical or mental harm.

32.19 He considered that the medical evidence before him met that test. This highlights the need to ask your experts to address the question if you intend to rely on medical grounds as justifying a private hearing.

32.20 The leading authority dealing with anonymity orders by reason of risk to the appellant following expulsion is the decision of the Supreme Court in A v BBC [2014] UKSC 25 [2015] AC 588 which involved an application by the BBC to set aside an anonymity order. Lord Reed, giving the only judgment, explained the general approach as follows:

47 ... the right to receive and impart information, which is guaranteed by article 10(1), may be engaged where measures are taken in relation to court proceedings to prevent information from becoming publicly available. The right guaranteed by article 10(1) is however qualified by article 10(2) ...

48 These qualifications reflect the fact that freedom of expression may conflict with other important values, including the rights to life and to bodily security protected by articles 2 and 3 of the Convention, the integrity of legal proceedings and the rights of litigants and accused persons, protected by article 6 , and the right to respect for private life, protected by article 8 . Where there is a conflict between the right of the media to report legal proceedings and the rights of litigants or others under a guarantee which is itself qualified, such as article 8 , a balance must be struck, so as to ensure that any restriction upon the rights of the media, on the one hand, or of the litigants or third parties, on the other hand, is proportionate in the circumstances. Lord Steyn in In re S (A Child) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) [2004] UKHL 47; [2005] 1 AC 593 , and by Lord Rodger in In re Guardian News and Media Ltd [2010] UKSC 1; [2010] 2 AC 697 .

49 Where the conflict is between the media's rights under article 10 and an unqualified right of some other party, such as the rights guaranteed by articles 2, 3 and 6(1) , there can be no derogation from the latter. Care must nevertheless be taken to ensure that the extent of the interference with the media's rights is no greater than is necessary. The need for such care reflects the important role of the media in a democratic society in scrutinising the administration of justice generally, as well as their role as the conduit of information about particular proceedings which may be of public interest.

50 Article 10(2) specifically identifies "maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary" as a legitimate aim which may justify interference with freedom of expression.

32.20A Note in particular there is no balancing exercise to be conducted between Article 3 and Article 10 in contrast to the Article 8/ Article 10 balancing exercise. However, the interference with freedom of expression must still be the least possible in order to comply with Article 3. Of course, the Article 3 risk could, alternatively, be addressed by permitting the BBC to publish but allowing A to remain in the UK because of the resulting risk. However, Lord Reed said that given that the Tribunal had determined that A was not at risk on return on the basis that he would be protected by an anonymity order, then to permit identification "would have subverted the basis of the tribunal's decision to authorise his deportation" (para 73). He stated that:

76... The interference with [the BBC's] freedom of expression was necessary to maintain the authority and impartiality of the judiciary, since its publication of A's identity in connection with the proposed deportation would have completely undermined the judicial review proceedings. In these circumstances, where the publication of A's identity in connection with the proceedings might well have rendered those proceedings pointless, the interference with the BBC's article 10 rights was unavoidable if the authority and impartiality of the judiciary, within the meaning of article 10(2) , were to be maintained. Put shortly, the order had to be made if the court was to do its job, notwithstanding the resulting restriction upon the BBC's capacity to do its job.

32.21 Any external physical risk to the appellant, a witness, or other persons, whether in this country or the country of origin, should justify an anonymity order so long as the risk is a real one. You will have to show, if applicable, that the risk cannot be addressed simply by an anonymity order without also requiring a private hearing. You might, for example, present expert evidence about any monitoring by the authorities in the country of origin of the activities of dissidents abroad which might involve monitoring appeals.

32.22 In cases where you seek a private hearing in order to protect the private life of the appellant or a witness, or the interests of a minor, the protection of private life will have to be balanced under article 8(2) with open justice, and the party's rights under article 8 balanced with the rights of the media to freedom of speech under article 10 (see para 48 of A v BBC [2014] UKSC 25 above). See also Khuja v Times Newspapers [2017] UKSC 49.

32.23 Even in respect of the 'interests of a minor', a similar balancing exercise will be required (In re S (A Child) [2004] UKHL 47 [2005] 1 AC 593). Guidance Note No. 8 on Unaccompanied Children (one of the 'Guidance Notes for the former AIT that are now relevant to FTTIAC' on the Tribunal's website) states that:

Consider whether all future hearings should be held in private, in order to help the child to feel at ease. An order should normally be made to exclude members of the public from the hearing room, in accordance with rule 54(3)(b)

The reference is to r. 54(3)(b) of the 2005 Procedure Rules, which empowered the Tribunal to exclude the public from a hearing "if it is necessary ... to protect the private life of a party or the interests of a minor".

32.24 Joint Presidential Guidance Note No. 2 of 2010: Child, vulnerable adult and sensitive appellant guidance similarly states under "Hearing evidence" (para 10.1):

v. Exclude members of the public when a child is giving evidence

vi. Consider restricting or barring members of the public/family members in other cases to enable oral evidence to be given freely and without covert intimidation. If, from reading the papers you suspect abuse or trafficking, you should consider excluding individuals not associated with the presentation of the case to enable the witness to give evidence unhindered. You may notice individuals in the Tribunal who have no apparent bearing on the hearing and you may consider closing the hearing to the public to enable evidence to be given, even if you do not suspect trauma.

32.26 If the Tribunal agrees to an application to exclude members of the public under rule 27, you should ensure that measures have been taken to prevent the public entering before the hearing proper starts. The court clerk usually places a notice on the door. If you have a rule 27 application that has not yet been considered, this should obviously be the first item you raise at the hearing.

32.26A In response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the Senior President of Tribunals (on 2 April 2020) directed that where it is not practicable for a hearing to be broadcast in a court or tribunal building, the Tribunal may direct that the hearing will take place in private, where this is necessary to secure the proper administration of justice: para 4 Pilot Practice Direction: Video/Audio Hearings in the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. Where remote hearings are held in private, they must be recorded by the Tribunal insofar as practicable. On the application of any person, any recording made of a private hearing may be accessed in a tribunal or court building, with the tribunal's consent: para 7 Pilot Practice Direction: Video/Audio Hearings in the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. The Practice Direction also specifies that where a media representative is able to access proceedings remotely while those proceedings are taking place, the proceedings will constitute a public hearing: para 5 Pilot Practice Direction: Video/Audio Hearings in the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. The 2014 Procedure Rules have also been amended to reflect the need to conduct hearings remotely: provision is made to broaden the circumstances in which hearings may be held in private (new rule 27(2A)) and recording of remote hearings (new rule 27A):

27…(2A) Without prejudice to paragraph (2), the Tribunal may direct that a hearing, or part of it, is to be held in private if—

(a) the Tribunal directs that the proceedings are to be conducted wholly or partly as video proceedings or audio proceedings;

(b) it is not reasonably practicable for such a hearing, or such part, to be accessed in a court or tribunal venue by persons who are not parties entitled to participate in the hearing;

(c) a media representative is not able to access the proceedings remotely while they are taking place; and

(d) such a direction is necessary to secure the proper administration of justice.

27A.—(1) In the circumstances set out in paragraph (3), the Tribunal must direct that the hearing be recorded, if practicable.

(2) Where the Tribunal has made a direction under paragraph (1), it may direct the manner in which the hearing must be recorded.

(3) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are that the hearing, or part of it, is—

(a) held in private under rule 27(2A); or

(b) only treated as held in public by virtue of a media representative being able to access the proceedings remotely while they are taking place.

(4) On the application of any person, any recording made pursuant to a direction under paragraph (1) is to be accessed with the consent of the Tribunal in such manner as the Tribunal may direct.

These provisions were inserted on a temporary basis to make provision for hearings during the pandemic, and will cease to have effect when s.55(b) of the Coronavirus Act 2020 expires for all purposes (25 March 2022, unless brought forward or extended – for up to 6 months – by regulations under s90 Coronavirus Act 2020).