Legal Aid Agency forced to reconsider ‘exceptional case funding’ decision after vulnerable claimant’s human rights grounds ignored

Friday 24 April 2015

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has been forced to reconsider the funding application of a St Lucian woman who had applied for leave to remain in the UK on article 8 human rights grounds outside the immigration rules.

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The LAA had refused the claimant exceptional funding to fight her appeal against her removal and had relied on an earlier First-tier Tribunal (FTT) decision in her case that had failed to follow the guidance on vulnerable witnesses and failed to properly consider her human rights claim. The claimant had not been represented at the FTT, having been refused funding and an adjournment, though GP and psychiatrist reports stated that her post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression meant that she could not focus on legal issues, represent herself or face cross examination. The claimant, represented by Sonali Naik, said she had suffered psychological damage after being sexually abused when she was a child in St Lucia. She had been terrified by the experience of appearing before the FTT, so much so that she left before the hearing had concluded.

It was held that the LAA’s decision had been unfair and flawed because it had relied on the decision of the FTT, which was later set aside by the Upper Tribunal on grounds of procedural fairness, and required it to be re-heard afresh. The LAA will now have to reconsider the claimant’s application for funding for that fresh appeal in the FTT.

The claimant was represented by Sonali Naik who was instructed by Duncan Lewis Solicitors.

Sonali Naik is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team

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