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President of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Upper Tribunal issues amended Presidential Guidance Note on arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic

Summary:

Guidance amended after Justice Fordham finds previous call for cases to be usually made without a hearing was unlawful

Date of Publication:
20 November 2020

President of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Upper Tribunal issues amended Presidential Guidance Note on arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic

20 November 2020
EIN

Mr Justice Lane, the President of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Upper Tribunal, yesterday issued an amended Presidential Guidance Note on arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Fordham found that the previous Presidential Guidance Note was unlawful as it called for cases to be usually made on the papers and without a hearing.

Fordham said: "That position is inconsistent with basic common law requirements which inform the overriding objective of just and fair disposal, with which Judges are duty-bound to comply."

As a result, paragraphs 9-17 of the previous Presidential Guidance Note (first issued in March and amended in September) have now been withdrawn.

The new amended Presidential Guidance Note is available here and can be read in full below:

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UPPER TRIBUNAL
IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM CHAMBER

AMENDED PRESIDENTIAL GUIDANCE NOTE No 1 2020:
ARRANGEMENTS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

BACKGROUND

In view of the decision of the Senior President of Tribunals to extend the Pilot Practice Direction for a period of six months (subject to certain amendments), the opportunity has been taken to amend paragraphs 1 and 20 and footnote 3 of the Presidential Guidance Note No 1 2020. For ease of reference, the full text of the Guidance Note as now amended, is set out below.
Paragraphs 9-17 have been withdrawn.

A. INTRODUCTION

1.     On 19 March 2020, the Lord Chancellor approved the Practice Direction made by the Senior President of Tribunals: Pilot Practice Direction: Contingency arrangements in the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. The Practice Direction states that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it may be necessary for tribunals to adjust their ways of working to limit the spread of the virus and to work appropriately. The Practice Direction was stated to be in force for 6 months from 19 March 2020, although it could be reviewed within that period should it become inappropriate or unnecessary and may be revoked at any time. In view of the position regarding Covid-19, the Practice Direction has been extended until 18 March 2021, subject to the same qualifications. The Practice Direction can be found here: https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/pilot-practice-direction-contingency-arrangements-in-the-first-tier-tribunal-and-the-upper-tribunal/.

2.     This Guidance is issued pursuant to the Practice Direction. It will last as long as the Practice Direction is in force.

3.     On 19 and 20 March 2020, the UTIAC informed parties of the postponement of hearings of cases that had been the subject of hearing notices, beginning on 23 March. This Guidance explains what will happen with regard to those cases and to the other cases which are before the UTIAC or which may come before it during the pandemic.

B. THE OVERRIDING OBJECTIVE

4.     Both the Practice Direction and this Guidance are intended to enable the UTIAC to give effect to the overriding objective during the Covid-19 pandemic. For our purposes, the overriding objective is defined in rule 2 of the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008 ("the UT Rules"). The overriding objective is "to enable the Upper Tribunal to deal with cases fairly and justly".

5.     Rule 2(2) explains that dealing with a case fairly and justly includes: dealing with it in ways that are proportionate to the importance of the case, the complexity of the issues, etc; avoiding unnecessary formality and seeking flexibility in the proceedings; ensuring, so far as practicable, that the parties are able to participate fully in the proceedings; using any special expertise of the Upper Tribunal effectively; and avoiding delay, so far as compatible with proper consideration of the issues.

6.     Rule 2(4) puts a duty on the parties to help the Upper Tribunal to further the overriding objective; and to cooperate with the Upper Tribunal generally. This duty is particularly significant at this time.

C. DECISIONS WITHOUT A HEARING

7.     Paragraph 4 of the Practice Direction reads as follows:

"Decisions on the papers without a hearing

4. Where a Chamber's procedure rules allow decisions to be made without a hearing, decisions should usually be made in this way, provided this is in accordance with the overriding objective, the parties' ECHR rights and the Chamber's procedure rules about notice and consent."

8.     Rule 34 provides:

"34. –(1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), the Upper Tribunal may make any decision without a hearing.
(2) The Upper Tribunal must have regard to any view expressed by a party when deciding whether to hold a hearing to consider any matter, and the form of any such hearing.
(3) In immigration judicial review proceedings, the Upper Tribunal must hold a hearing before making a decision which disposes of proceedings.
(4) [Enables the UTIAC to do various things without a hearing in immigration judicial review proceedings, including deciding paper applications under rule 30]".

D. MAKING CERTAIN APPEAL DECISIONS WITHOUT A HEARING

[Paragraphs 9-17 withdrawn]

E. REMOTE HEARINGS

18.     Paragraph 6 of the Practice Direction applies where a tribunal decides in a particular case that a hearing is necessary. Paragraph 6 reads as follows:

"Remote hearings

6. Where it is reasonably practicable and in accordance with the overriding objective to hear the case remotely (that is in any way that is not face-to-face, but which complies with the definition of 'hearing' in the relevant Chamber's procedure rules), it should be heard remotely."

19.     If a hearing is necessary, the "default" option during the pandemic is, therefore, that the hearing should be conducted remotely. Rule 1 of the UT Rules defines a "hearing" as "an oral hearing and includes a hearing conducted in whole or in part by video link, telephone or other means of instantaneous two-way electronic communication". There is, accordingly, no question that a remote hearing is a hearing for the purposes of the UT Rules, including rule 34 (see above) and rule 40(1A), which states that, in immigration judicial review proceedings, a decision which disposes of proceedings shall be given at a hearing.

Form of remote hearing

20.     A remote hearing may involve a live audio link or a live video link. A live audio link will usually be by telephone (probably BTMeetMe). A live video link will normally be conducted using Skype for Business, Cloud Video Platform (CVP) or similar.

21.     Whichever form of remote hearing is used, the principle of open justice must continue to be respected. Unless the circumstances are exceptional or there is a reason why, in any event, regardless of whether the hearing is a remote hearing, it should be held in private, pursuant to a direction under rule 37(2), the remote hearing will be in public. In order to achieve this, the UTIAC will, wherever practicable, make the audio or video link through a courtroom at Field House, or other centre where the UTIAC sits, so that any member of the public who wishes to do so can attend to hear or see/hear the proceedings. That is, of course, subject to the courtroom being open for the purpose. Where no relevant courtroom is open, owing to the pandemic, the UTIAC can be expected to proceed in accordance with such procedures as may be enacted by Parliament for the purpose [1]; or – exceptionally – by making a direction under rule 37(2) for the hearing to be private in the interests of securing the proper administration of justice.

22.     Where a judge (or UTIAC Lawyer exercising delegated judicial functions) considers that a remote hearing is necessary and feasible, the UTIAC will inform the parties of that fact and of the intended means of delivering the remote hearing. This will either be in the notice of hearing or in a separate communication. Each of the parties will be directed to respond by email, copied to the other party/parties, giving the details required in the direction in order to participate in the remote hearing by the intended means. Any objection to the intended means of delivering the remote hearing, or to the use of any form of remote hearing, must give reasons. These will be considered by a judge or UTIAC Lawyer under delegated judicial functions. The parties will be informed of the UTIAC's decision.

Documents

23.     Documents which a party intends to rely on at a remote hearing must, if practicable, still be filed by sending by post to the UTIAC, in advance of the hearing, and served by post on the other party. In all cases of remote hearings, however, the documents must in any event be filed and served electronically, in advance of the hearing.

24.     Because of this requirement for electronic filing and service, it is important that the documentation to be relied upon at a remote hearing is confined what is essential. Where case law is relied upon, the bundle should contain a list of the cases concerned, with citations, rather than the text of the judgments; provided the cases are publicly accessible online. Where other documents are publicly accessible online, only the parts relied on should be included in the bundle, together with a reference to the online site at which the full document can be found.

25.     The reason for requiring only what is essential is that large electronic files can be slow to transmit and unwieldy to use. Attachments to an email must not, in total, exceed 15 MB, otherwise the email will not be delivered. For this reason, several separate emails may be necessary, in order to deliver the complete bundle electronically.

26.     If practicable, electronic bundles should be indexed and paginated. They must be prepared in .pdf, .doc, .docx or other format readily capable of being opened and read on computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The remote hearing itself

27.     Unlike face to face hearings, remote hearings in the UTIAC listed for a particular day will be listed at different times, rather than all at 10am. The UTIAC staff member assigned to facilitate the remote hearing will establish contact with the parties approximately 10 minutes before the scheduled time of the remote hearing. The parties must, accordingly, make themselves ready and available in advance. If the judge is to conduct the remote hearing from a courtroom, the judge will enter at the appointed time and conduct the hearing. If the judge is participating remotely, he or she will be invited to join by the staff member, once the parties are logged in.

28.     Wherever practicable, the UTIAC will record the proceedings electronically. If in a courtroom with DARTS facilities, that will be used and/or a recording facility on the telephone system or Skype etc. The parties shall not make an audio and/or visual recording of the proceedings without the judge's express permission.

Oral evidence

29.     In an appeal to the UTIAC, it may be necessary to hear oral evidence to make findings of fact; in particular, in order to re-make the decision under section 12(2)(b)(ii) of the TCEA 2007: […]. If so, a remote hearing may still be appropriate, depending upon the nature and extent of the evidence and of the findings that may need to be made on it.

30.     If it is decided that, in a case where a hearing is necessary in order to make a particular decision, there is a particular reason why a remote hearing would not be appropriate, the parties will be so informed. In such a situation, arrangements will be made for the case to proceed by means of a face to face hearing in court, with appropriate precautions to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. Where no such precautions are practicable, the case will be adjourned; but the position will be reviewed from time to time, as may be necessary.

Other

31.     It is quite possible that the above requirements will be modified or supplemented, in the light of experience. Here, as elsewhere, the parties are reminded of their obligation under rule 2(4) to cooperate with the UTIAC (see paragraph 6 above). In each case, the parties will, in any event, be given directions that explain what is needed in advance of the remote hearing.

F. INTERPRETERS

32.     The Big Word, which supplies interpreters for hearings in UTIAC, has confirmed it has interpreters available, who are able to provide interpretation services via conference calls to connect with the UTIAC. In the event that an interpreter is needed for a remote hearing, the parties can, therefore, expect the UTIAC to make appropriate arrangements.

G. JUDICIAL REVIEW

33.     Beginning on 23 March 2020, applications to the UTIAC for judicial review that require urgent or immediate consideration (using or including form T 483 or T 484), must be filed by email to utiac.londonjr@justice.gov.uk. This applies where the applicant is represented; or where the applicant is unrepresented and not in immigration detention or at a removal centre. Details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-urgent-consideration-in-a-judicial-review-form-t483. This applies to the whole of England and Wales. There is no change to the existing arrangements for urgent/immediate applications, where the applicant is unrepresented and in immigration detention or at a removal centre. There is also no change to the previous arrangements, whereby applications made after 4pm on working days and at any time on a non-working day (weekends and bank holidays) must be made using the out of hours court service.

34.     If an application for urgent or immediate consideration has been refused by UTIAC without a hearing, the applicant can ask for the matter to be reconsidered at a hearing. During the pandemic, this hearing will take place by telephone with a judge.

35.     Applications to UTIAC for judicial review, which do not require urgent or immediate consideration may continue to be filed by post (or by hand, if circumstances permit and the relevant office is open).

36.     UT rule 40(1A) provides that, in immigration judicial review proceedings, a decision that disposes of proceedings shall be given by the UTIAC at a hearing (subject the exceptions listed in rule 40(1B)). As explained in paragraph 19 above, this requirement may be satisfied by the use of a remote hearing. If, in a particular case, a remote hearing is not appropriate, paragraph 30 above applies.

H. FINAL MATTERS

37.     It needs to be appreciated that unfolding events during the pandemic may affect the extent to which UTIAC can operate by reference to this Guidance. In any event, the need to adopt new ways of working may well lead to challenges on the ground, which will need to be approached sympathetically by parties and the UTIAC alike.

Mr Justice Lane
President
23 March 2020
Amended 16 September 2020
and 19 November 2020

[1] See Coronavirus Act 2020, Schedule 25 (Public participation in proceedings conducted by video or audio), paragraph 2, inserting new s 29ZA to 29ZD in Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.