Migrant should have 'just one appeal', ex-Lord Chief Justice saysDecember 13, 2023
Laws should be tightened so migrants have ‘just one right of appeal’ and can be removed within a fortnight, former Lord Chief Justice says
- Lord Thomas said that he found legal challenges from migrants ‘inexplicable’
The law should be tightened so migrants can be removed within a fortnight, the former Lord Chief Justice said today.
In an explosive intervention in the immigration debate, Lord Thomas said he found it inexplicable that migrants were allowed to bring a series of legal challenges against being forced to leave Britain.
He said the system should be rejigged to limit them to ‘one right of appeal’.
The remarks by Lord Thomas – who was the head of the judiciary in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017 – will boost the Government’s proposals to streamline the asylum system.
But they also risk antagonising the large sector of the legal profession who make a good living by drawing out immigration cases with multiple appeals.
The remarks by Lord Thomas – who was the head of the judiciary in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017 – will boost the Government’s proposals to streamline the asylum system
A group of people thought to be migrants crossing the Channel while overloaded on a small boat heading to Dover on August 29
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, his predecessor Boris Johnson and former home secretary Priti Patel have all attacked ‘Lefty lawyers’ for exploiting human rights laws to frustrate Government efforts to strengthen border controls.
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‘You need to simplify and tighten the procedure – that is where we ought to be directing our attention,’ Lord Thomas told a University of Law podcast.
‘The only way properly to solve the immigration issue… is that you ought to actually be able within a set period of time – say a fortnight – to hear, investigate, decide, give him one right of appeal – why you should have more than one right of appeal I simply don’t understand – and remove them.’
He added: ‘The problem with immigration is that we’ve never properly got the system to deal with it speedily.
‘We haven’t put the money into it.’
However, Lord Thomas said the Government should not override the European Court of Human Rights if it intervened to block flights to Rwanda. He questioned powers already brought into law under the Illegal Migration Act earlier this year that allow ministers to ignore interim injunctions, known as Rule 39 orders, which were used by the court in Strasbourg to block the first Rwanda flight moments before take-off in June last year.
‘If you have subjected yourself to a court, and it was our voluntary decision to do so… then you have to take the rough with the smooth, and if they’ve decided they have this jurisdiction then you ought to follow it,’ he said.
‘You can’t expect others to respect the law if you say you won’t respect the law of someone else.’
Lord Thomas said any disagreements over Strasbourg’s powers to impose Rule 39s should be resolved ‘politically’ in the Council of Europe, which oversees the court.
Speaking on the podcast The Judges: Power, Politics and the People, hosted by legal journalist Frances Gibb, he also described his clashes with Liz Truss when she was justice secretary and lord chancellor, adding: ‘Her period as lord chancellor showed the issues that would subsequently arise when she had more senior posts, particularly that of prime minister, of someone who doesn’t listen, doesn’t take advice and doesn’t understand the Constitution.’
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