ArticleHome Office faces £20,000 penalty for unlawful detention

In a landmark ruling, the Home Office has been ordered to compensate a claimant with £20,000 for 60 days of false imprisonment. The case, Oluponle v Home Office [2023] EWHC 3188 (KB), highlights significant failings in the Home Office’s detention process. This decision provides insight into the judicial handling of wrongful detention and the Home Office’s operational oversights.

The claimant, a Nigerian national, had initially been detained for using a fake passport in 2006 and subsequently sought to revoke his deportation after a failed human rights appeal. In May 2016, while attending a routine reporting event, he was detained again by the Home Office with plans for removal. However, the situation took a complex turn when he filed an asylum claim, leading to the deferral of his removal and continued detention.

The Home Office’s decision to certify the asylum claim under section 96 of the Nationality, Immigration, and Asylum Act 2002 was deemed unlawful. The court identified that the Home Office should have made an asylum decision by 22 August 2016, and the detention beyond this period was not justified. Furthermore, the quality of the asylum interview conducted on 7 July 2016 was criticised. A Home Office official later acknowledged that the interview did not sufficiently support the decision to certify the claim, yet detention continued until late October 2016.

Caspar Glyn KC, serving as a deputy High Court judge, acknowledged the serious impact of the prolonged detention on the claimant. The appalling conditions and lasting effects were significant, although no personal injury was evidenced. The award of £20,000 for the wrongful 60-day detention reflects the severity of the claimant’s experience.

Implications of the Judgment:

  1. The judge firmly dismissed the typical Home Office argument that detention remains lawful while awaiting a potential appeal by the claimant, emphasizing the need for proactive measures.
  2. The judge’s approach reinforces that once a claimant is granted a right of appeal, the onus is on the Home Office to demonstrate the feasibility of expediting the appeal to justify continued detention.
  3. This case sets a precedent for assessing compensation in similar unlawful detention cases. The exceptional circumstances, including racial abuse and physical mishandling, were taken into account in determining the compensation amount. However, the absence of medical evidence to support the claim for damages was noted by the judge.

The Oluponle v Home Office case is a significant reminder of the legal responsibilities and limitations of the Home Office in detention cases. It underscores the necessity for adherence to lawful procedures and the importance of timely and fair processing of asylum claims. The ruling not only provides justice to the claimant but also serves as a critical evaluation of the Home Office’s practices in detention and deportation cases.

This judgment is likely to influence future cases of unlawful detention, particularly in how compensation is assessed and the factors considered in determining the lawfulness of detention.

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