Full Divisional Court rejects Home Secretary’s attempts to limit Special Immigration Appeals Commission’s powers of scrutiny

Thursday 19 March 2015

A judicial review brought by the Home Secretary against a ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has been rejected by a full Divisional Court headed by Lord Justice Leveson.

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In a clear and authoritative judgment, the Divisional Court has rejected attempts by the Home Secretary to prevent the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) from having access to material underlying decisions to deny British citizenship and to exclude individuals from the UK.

Since 2013 SIAC has exercised, in addition to its appellate function, a review jurisdiction on ‘judicial review’ principles concerning refusals of applications to naturalise or decisions to exclude from the UK on grounds which the Secretary of State does not wish to make public. In a ruling intended to provide guidance in future cases engaging SIAC’s review jurisdiction, SIAC had held that the Home Secretary was required to make disclosure of certain underlying material to the Commission and Special Advocates who are security cleared to see secret material. The Home Secretary sought a judicial review of SIAC’s ruling. The matter was listed before a full Divisional Court led by Lord Justice Leveson. Following both an open and a closed hearing - facilitated by section 6 of the Justice & Security Act 2013 (which empowers a court to direct a closed material procedure in judicial review), the court rejected the Home Secretary's position that the Commission was only entitled to see a 'summary' or 'report' when determining challenges to the lawfulness of such decisions and instead agreed with SIAC that:

"It is not sufficient for CLOSED disclosure to be limited to the summary prepared for the Home Office official (or Secretary of State) plus any other documents not before the summary writer but taken into account by the official or the Secretary of State".

The court further clarified that the disclosure required did not extend beyond that which was deemed sufficient to sustain the conclusions reached in the summary.

Stephanie Harrison QC, Amanda Weston and Edward Grieves, all of Garden Court Chambers Public & Administrative Law team represented the Interested Parties and made submissions in support of SIAC’s ruling. As did Ramby de Melo of No. 5 Chambers, who represented the Interested Party FM.

The full judgment is also available: Secretary of State for the Home Department v Special Immigration Appeals Commission,  AHK, AM, AS, MA, FM and Ignaoua (Interested Parties) [2015] EWHC 681 (Admin)

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