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380 days detention declared unlawful

Date posted: 28 March 2017

Hannah Watkins

Hannah Watkins gives the following account of a 2 day false imprisonment trial that she recently prepared.


False Imprisonment claims are about numbers; number of days in detention, dates of decisions, damages. More importantly they are about the person behind the numbers who had their liberty unlawfully taken away by the state. Last week our client (we will call her AB) had the opportunity to go to Court and be recognised not as a number but as a person.


AB arrived in the UK in 1990’s and claimed asylum. She spent over a decade waiting for a decision, during which time she reported regularly, without fail. After this remarkable history she was eventually regularised with a grant of settlement.


Unusually, it was after being granted status that AB committed a document offence and spent 1 year on criminal bail before being convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. She served 6 months in prison and was then due to be released. She was excited to be reunited with her children and grandchildren.


However the Home Office decided that AB should not be released commenced automatic deport action. The Home Office did not know how many days it would take to deport AB and could not tell her how many days she would be in detention. The Home Office failed to arrange a travel document for AB and so she remained in detention for over 380 days before being released on her fourth bail application.


AB’s immigration detention (380 days) was more than double the time spent in serving the criminal sentence (180 days). !


At the hearing the Judge heard evidence from AB and from Home Office officials. The Judge looked at all the evidence available at the time and found the entire 380 day period of AB’s detention to be unlawful. He decided that at all times there were significant obstacles to her removal and in light of her obvious low risk of reoffending and absconding the Home Office she should never have been detained. The Home Office was ordered to pay substantial damages to AB.


This was a great outcome for our client. She was extremely happy to have the opportunity to go to Court and be heard as a person and not just a number. She told me she felt that justice had finally been done as the Home Office were held responsible for their unlawful actions.


If you are concerned or affected by this issue and would like to discuss further please contact Hannah Watkins in our Public Law team on 020 8808 7535 or