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Jo Wilding

  • Call: 2007
Jo Wilding

Research, consultancy, lecturing and training

Jo is currently on sabbatical at the University of Brighton, working on a PhD on legal aid for asylum and immigration work, provisionally called ’The Business of Asylum Justice’. This looks at how the peer-recognised high-quality practitioners, firms, not-for-profits and chambers try to balance quality, financial viability and access for clients in a time of legal aid cuts.

Previously she was a Research Fellow at the University of Brighton, working with Professor Marie-Benedicte Dembour on the EU-funded investigation of the application of the best interests principle to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK, France, Austria and Slovenia. The national report is available here and Jo’s evidence was extensively cited in the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee report, Children in Crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU – is available on the parliament website. Articles based on this research have been published in the International Journal of Refugee Law and Critical Social Policy.

Jo was the legal expert on the Quality of Asylum Legal Advice research team comprising Migration Work CIC, Refugee Action and Asylum Research Consultancy, commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Legal Ombudsman and Unbound Philanthropy – available on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website.

She is a part-time law lecturer at the University of Brighton and also delivers in-house training and is happy to tailor training to the needs of solicitors or other organisations.


Jo practises in asylum and immigration, including trafficking, unlawful detention and damages for false imprisonment.

False imprisonment

Jo acts in claims for damages for false imprisonment under immigration powers. Recent successes include: an Iraqi national detained after finishing a prison sentence, where the probation trust had failed to approve or allocate accommodation for him, preventing him from making an effective bail application; a victim of human trafficking unlawfully detained for removal to Eritrea; and a woman detained for an excessive period with a view to removal to Italy under the Dublin Convention.

Jo’s public law practice includes a broad range of asylum and immigration-related work including trafficking (challenging negative reasonable and conclusive grounds decisions), challenging refusals in asylum fresh claim cases, fitness-to-fly challenges to proposed removals and unlawful detention, including obtaining interim relief in the form of release.

She has a particular interest in judicial review claims challenging both the Home Office and probation trusts over continuing detention, where the probation trust has failed to allocate or refused to approve accommodation for a former prisoner, meaning that the detainee is unable to make an effective bail application.

Asylum and Other

A recent asylum case involved a young person who had arrived in the UK as a child, had had his nationality disputed, suffered poor representation at first instance and subsequently made a fresh claim. Jo worked closely with instructing solicitors on the fresh claim appeal, meticulously preparing and thoroughly dissecting the evidence – particularly the language analysis reports – which resulted in both the client’s nationality and his account being accepted, leading to a grant of asylum.

Jo makes effective use of empirical psychological evidence in asylum cases where credibility is in dispute. For example, Home Office refusal letters and Tribunal decisions frequently rely on assumptions about what is reasonable to expect an applicant to remember, which is contrary to evidence around normal and traumatic memory. She is a strong believer in weaving together the facts, psychological evidence and case law as a narrative to put forward the client’s account in a compelling way.

Jo undertakes trafficking work at Tribunal and judicial review level. Tribunal successes include a grant of asylum as a former victim of trafficking for a Vietnamese child, a grant of asylum for an adult male Afghan as a former victim of trafficking and grants for female DRC nationals trafficked for exploitation as children. She also succeeded on a s83 ‘upgrade’ appeal for a child victim of trafficking from the DRC.

Articles and publications

She is a contributor to the eighth and forthcoming ninth edition of Macdonald’s Immigration Law and Practice and the upcoming fifth edition of Jackson and Warr’s Immigration Law and Practice.


Jo joined as a tenant at Garden Court Chambers in 2007 after completing pupillage here. Prior to that she spent several months in Iraq – before, during and after the 2003 invasion – documenting civilian casualties, setting up and running a small circus where she worked with traumatised and internally displaced children, and writing a weblog which later became a book and a stage-play, “Don’t Shoot the Clowns”. She spent time in Fallujah during the April 2004 siege, where she escorted ambulances through conflict areas. For this work she was co-nominated as one of the 1000 Peacewomen for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her writing from Fallujah was included in “Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs”, edited by  John Pilger, who described her work as, “some of the finest frontline reporting of the war” and “the best and bravest eyewitness journalism”.

Notable cases

R (on the application of Andargi) v SSHD [2014] EWHC The Claimant’s detention was unlawful because the Defendant’s consideration of the Rule 35 report was inadequate and by reason of excessive length in the circumstances.

R (on the application of Efenure) v SSHD [2013] EWHC 3072: the decision to treat a student as an illegal entrant on the basis of verbal deception was unlawful, as was his consequent detention for five months. Damages awarded.

D (DRC) [2012] CO/5969/2012: obtained an injunction preventing removal to the DRC, expressed as affecting all removals to the DRC.

R (on the application of SSM): obtained interim relief in the form of release from detention, permission to challenge a negative reasonable grounds decision and later damages for false imprisonment.

R (on the application of TWM) v Upper Tribunal CO/2412/2011 (settled in 2014): “Cart” judicial review. Permission granted and case settled with a grant of humanitarian protection to a Zimbabwean national with significant mental health problems.

R (TA) v SSHD [2012] Court of Appeal: obtained an emergency injunction (on appeal from Admin Court) preventing removal of an elderly Iraqi woman on the basis of administrative unfairness and a fresh claim. Subsequently secured bail.

GK (Zimbabwe) [2011] Court of Appeal: permission granted on asylum and Articles 3 and 8 on the basis of arguments which took the matter beyond “pure medical” issues to bring the Appellant’s sight loss within the scope of Articles 3 and 8.

MHM (Iraq) v SSHD and Tower Hamlets Probation Service [2012] Admin Court: ongoing challenge to unlawful detention against both UKBA, who are detaining for an excessive period under s36(1) power, and the probation service, who have failed to provide approved accommodation in order for MHM to make an effective bail application. The failure is argued to be discriminatory on the basis of MHM’s nationality.


Jo is mum to two small children.