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The new Asylum Bill has "no place in any decent society", claimed the Bar Council yesterday, ahead of this week's debate on the proposals.
The chairman of the Bar Council Matthias Kelly QC said: "The bill snuffs out the concept of a right of appeal. It is rough justice made to order. It has no place in any decent society." He was speaking before what is expected to be a highly critical Home Affairs Select Committee report of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Bill, due to be published today, and in advance of its second reading before the House of Commons later in the week.
The Bar Council is particularly concerned about the proposals contained in Clause 10 regarding hearings by the new Asylum Tribunal, which has no review by the courts of its activities. "The clause removes the jurisdiction of the courts to review the new tribunal's decisions, even where the tribunal has got the law wrong or acted in breach of natural justice," argued Kelly.
Under the proposals, the tribunal would review its own decisions, and such a review would only be by reference to written submissions, as opposed to an oral hearing. All other courts, including the House of Lords, would be barred from hearing proceedings in respect of the tribunal's decisions and there was no right of appeal to the High Court or the Court of Appeal. The president of the tribunal may, in his discretion, refer a point of law to the appropriate appellate court. According to the Bar Council, the "absence of any right of appeal into the High Court/Court of Appeal, coupled with the prohibition of access to the High Court by applications for judicial review", means that the tribunal can reach a decision which is "(a) outside its jurisdiction, (b) irregular, (c) based on an error of law, (d) made in breach of natural justice, or (e) a nullity for any other reason".
"This proposition would be startling if made in a dictatorship," Kelly said, adding that the new tribunal would be "a law unto itself, if this bill is passed.